The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13.11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became grown, I put away childish things.”
This is the story of when I put away childish things and grew up. This is also the story of my wonderful, unselfish, loving sister, Becky.
I was born in Kentucky and raised there and in neighboring Indiana. When I was a kid I resented my sister Becky, eleven years my senior, because she became the authority in our home for a considerable period of time. This was during World War II, when our divorced mother worked in a defense factory in Indiana, and could only come home on infrequent weekends.
I looked on her as “perfect,” because she always did the right thing, while I always seemed to be in trouble. Becky was either yelling at me or punishing me for something all the time. Sometimes, when I’d done wrong, she would spank me. But if the infraction wasn’t too serious, she’d make me stand in the corner. Facing the wall, I would cry silent, self-pitying tears, wishing with all my heart that Mama would magically appear and see how I was being mistreated.
Becky made me do chores: set the dinner table, wash my face and hands before eating, pick up my toys and put them away before bed, say my prayers and go to church, among many other things I didn’t want to do. None of these tasks were difficult but they took time I would rather have spent doing fun things. I remember yelling at her numerous times, “I hate you! You aren’t my mother! I don’t have to do what you tell me!” Today I know how those words must have hurt her.
When I began grade school, she’d sit with me while I did homework, making me finish when I tried to get out of doing it. After I finished, she’d check it and I had to go back and correct wrong answers. That would take longer and I’d get mad and sulk because I wanted to go play. Grumbling to myself, I’d wonder “Why should she care if I get bad grades?” Then I’d decide “She just likes being mean.” And at that time, I really thought that was true.
Upon growing up, I began to realize circumstances I could not possibly have known or understood before. The facts were, that in spite of her youth, Becky quit school and took on an adult-sized burden of responsibilities. I don’t know many who would do such a thing these days. She looked after me and managed a household, a job many adults find difficult. I’m sure Becky would have preferred to be out having fun with friends, but she never complained. She just went on doing what needed to be done. Thinking back now, I don’t think it ever occurred to her to do otherwise.
The house was as clean as if Mama was there, the washing and ironing done, and good, nutritious meals on our table. This never occurred to me at that time, but later I wondered how in the world she accomplished this at such a young age? I also remember the times she hugged me and let me cry out my loneliness for Mama. No matter what the frustrations of the day, or how many times I stubbornly screamed at her, I never went to bed without a hug and a kiss goodnight. In my childish selfishness, it never crossed my mind that she was feeling that same sadness, or that she was overworked and tired. I only thought of my own feelings.
I’m sure there were times when it would have been easier for her to give up and allow me to do whatever I wanted. But my sister always did what she thought was best for me. She loved me enough to make me do the right thing. For me, as an adult, she defined endurance, perseverance and responsibility, while teaching me the meaning of unselfish love.
Growing up, I realized how fortunate I was to have a sister who cared enough to make sure I was properly raised. My view of my sister totally changed; where I once resented her, I now admired her, and we had a close, loving relationship. As for me, I’m happy I’m finally able to put away childish things and recognize her for her unselfish goodness.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My dear sister passed away in April of 2010. I will miss her all the days of my life.