“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 KJV
My daddy was my hero, my protector, my provider, and my first pastor and teacher. He never spoke to me like I was a child. We had intelligent discussions about world events, history, the Bible, cooking, and life in general. He taught me to be independent and encouraged me to do things on my own.
At the age of 5, he placed a chair in front of the kitchen stove and taught me how to fry an egg. From that time on, we always cooked together. Nearly every evening my dad and I prepared dinner before my mom came home from work.
Ironically, my mom, also an awesome cook, was the supervisor of the J.M. Fields Department Store cafeteria, but she usually only cooked on the weekends and holidays.
Daddy was a Baptist pastor, a high school teacher (he taught brick masonry), and he had his own brick laying business. As busy as he was, he cooked almost every meal for our family. He loved to cook and my mom’s work schedule ran late during the week.
So every morning daddy prepared a hot breakfast before heading out for bus parking lot duty at the school. Every morning we awoke to a pot of warm, bubbling grits, bacon or sausage, and sometimes eggs. He would leave the warm food on the stove so that we could eat a good meal before heading to school, while my mom slept in.
Being a teacher, he got home before 4 p.m. most days, so he would cook dinner for the family and we would keep it warm in the oven for my mom until she got home at 7:30 p.m.
They worked together as a couple and taught me and my siblings how to work together as a family. When I hear of families fighting or turning their backs on each other, it really saddens me. We were not raised that way. My dad would not even allow us to argue or hold a grudge against each other. He would remind us that no one would care for us like we cared for each other. “All you have is each other,” he would say.
My dad passed away in 2019, but the many lessons he taught me remain top of mind. His lessons prepared me for life, to be successful, and to serve others.
I didn’t realize until his funeral how much of a father he was to so many people. He shared words of wisdom, money and whatever he could with his students, young people in the churches he pastored, neighbors and even the children of some of the men who worked for him as laborers on his bricklaying jobs.
His classroom at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC was a vocational area, with a garage door that led to the outside for outdoor demonstrations. He would set up an outdoor cooking area with a propane tank and cook meals for the students who couldn’t afford lunch or were too embarrassed to use the free lunch cards issued to them.
Sometimes faculty members were drawn to his classroom by the savory aroma of stewed chicken and rice or some other "concoction" as he called some of his unique dishes. They would line up with their own bowls, and enjoy lunch and good conversation.
After he died, person after person testified how he bought groceries and paid the bills of struggling families, or hired young men and taught them about life just to keep them off the streets. One man, who was a teenager in our church, when my dad pastored Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Walterboro, SC, told me that he used to talk to my dad often about life. He also said that my dad never talked to him like he was a child, but an intelligent equal. He said that once he asked my dad why people seem to have a problem with the cornrow braids that he wore as a hairstyle.
“All of the adults around me kept telling me to change my hair, to cut it; but not your dad. When I asked him why everyone had a problem with it and was I wrong to wear my hair like that? He said “No, you’re not wrong. Society is just not ready.”
Yep, that was dad. He tried hard not to discourage young people. He would say, “everyone has their own path to walk. It may not look like mine or yours.” He wasn’t perfect, but he was a true daddy to me and my siblings, and a father-figure to so many others.