I was quite sure at the time that Miss Mann must have been close to a hundred years old - at least eighty it seemed. She was short, wore a long, dark skirt, had black "granny" shoes which laced up the front - an item old women chose back then - and wore a dark, cardigan sweater over her carefully ironed cotton blouse. Her unremarkable gray hair was combed straight back from her face and coiled into a bun at the nape of her neck - another sign she was really old. She wore no makeup.
Miss Mann had a face that I still see today - some 50 plus years later. Her skin sagged a little below her eyes and under her chin but I don't ever remember seeing her frown. Her face was winsomely warm and tender. She was soft spoken and yet well respected by everyone of all ages.
What I would come to learn about Miss Mann were things of which she didn't speak. She did not have a car and did not drive. She walked to and from church unless someone gave her a ride which we often did for her trips home. She worked as a domestic helper and had a room in the home of a wealthy family. She never married. Her personal wardrobe and possessions were what most people even then considered meager.
So what about this woman makes her a stand-out memory from my childhood? It was her genuine, quiet devotion to the Lord and to those children she got to know through her classes in our little church. She NEVER forgot our birthdays. After we moved to another class and after heading off to college, we continued to receive her annual birthday card and the handkerchief she ALWAYS included with it. I didn't think too much about it at the time but now I know that her meager personal possessions were a choice in order for her to buy the little remembrances she continued for many children for many years. And I feel certain that those cards came with her faithful prayers for each of us.
Miss Mann lived a long time after I moved into adulthood. When I learned of her death, I remember calculating her age when I would have first met her. She must have been barely forty years old!! But her choice to invest in the lives of children was not wasted on me nor many others.
Her selfless practice of Jesus' words from Mark 18:16,
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these"remains a treasured memory of my childhood and continues to have a profound impact on me.
I have written this memory in response to a prompt from Jennifer@GettingDownwithJesus which I found on The High Calling Blog site. Jennifer's story about Gladys is well worth reading.