|Little Perri Kathryn, Age 3 months|
On this day, sixty years ago, I came into the world. I know my mother had these incredible hopes for her firstborn. First, that I be healthy. I was (at a little over 8 pounds). Second, that I grow up morally and with a sound mind. I did. And lastly, I believe, that I do what I was called to do. Well, finally I’m getting that part right.
As the clock turns in my life, I find myself thinking not so much of the past sixty years (although I have thought of them), but the next sixty years. “Why?” you might ask. Am I planning on living another sixty years? In some ways the answer to the second question is yes, but not how you might think. Whether I am able to live another sixty years, I can’t say. I know that in this first six decades, I didn’t always take care of myself and so that might or might not shorten my lifespan. I smoked at one point (although I didn’t smoke much and it was more than twenty years ago). I started gaining weight after age 40 and that has some bearing on my health today. Or, I could be run over by a car. But whether I am here physically or not, I WILL have an impact on the next sixty years because it will be intentional.
My mother and grandmother both talked to me about the call on one’s life. My mother believed that had it not been for Dr. Perry Priest, a man for whom I am named, and who my grandmother took care of as a baby and then later took care of his babies, she would not have been a nurse. Her highest goal was to finish high school and get a job, but she said, “God had different plans for my life.” She believed that God used Dr. Priest to help her to know that she was smart and quite capable of going to and finishing nursing school. My mother was aware that school wasn’t an easy goal for any woman in the 1940s, but for a black woman—almost impossible.
Dr. Priest made it happen, however. My mother did the rest. With a generous stipend along with the money for tuition, my mother was able to finish nursing school. Later, she went on to work as a registered nurse and even pursued more education at age 50. From that one gift in 1947 to my mother, more than sixty years of Walthall-McCary family members have become medical professionals, educators, and engineers. Dr. Priest isn’t here to see it, nor is my mother for that matter. But his gift has been far-reaching. What I am learning today is that we have to expand our thinking when it comes to our choices. When giving my mother the gift of an education, Dr. Priest’s only concern was that by giving my mother this gift, she would be able to always take care of my grandmother, a woman he loved dearly. That was the promise he extracted from my mother, in fact. She did and she also did so much more.
I intend to take a page from my mother’s life and start making decisions that aren’t based on just the now, but the tomorrows—whether I am here or not. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. What I know, however, is it isn’t just about me. It IS about my children and grandchildren. And, it is about those that I come in contact with, whose lives I impact, even when I don’t know it. Imagine, if you will, how what you do today can affect the next 7 generations. Can you see how your life can impact the next 100 or 120 years? I call it the power of 7. Well, my life right now is an extension of 6 generations before me. It might include ancestors who were once enslaved on an American plantation or not, but as the 7th generation of those before me who made sacrifices and who may have made mistakes, too, I have a duty to take all of that and do more. Their history is coursing through my veins. I will do my best to take all of that and use it for good. I will take all of that and learn from them, and I will take all of their dreams and hopes for a better future and make it so. Starting with me.
But in being able to do what I’m not only called to do, but what I am going to be intentional about, I know that I cannot do it alone. I’m asking for support—road dogs if you will. But I am asking for more. My dear sisters (and brothers, but especially the sisters), if you would take this journey with me, it would make the journey easier and so much more enjoyable. My friends and family currently on my heels as they age and my friends who heels I’m on as I age, I’m taking the best of each of you with me. We’re of a generation (about 5 to 6 years before or after my birthdate) and have a lot to learn from one other. In addition, our generation is responsible to the ones coming after us (the right now generations as well as the not yet generations). Failing is NOT an option if we put our hearts and minds to it.
“I believe there's a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value
and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware.
And awakened. To answer the call.”
~ Oprah Winfrey ~
So, here’s the hope for our individual calling; that we embrace it and gather it unto ourselves, and that the next sixty years will count us successful.
The world awaits our efforts. Peace!