My mother's 83rd birthday would have been today, but she passed away six years ago. The last time I talked to her is etched in my mind. She called us on the way back from dinner. My sister, Kathy, my children, Maggie and Robert, and I were in a golf cart on Key Biscayne in Florida, where my sister lives. My mom was happy to hear we were together. She laughed and said, "Look out for one another." We assured her we would. She laughed again and said, "I love you." We said, "We love you too."
We did not know that it would be the last time we would hear her voice. But I am glad to know that she was secure in our love for her and for each other.
She had a strong belief in God, crediting prayer, as well as medicine, for saving her life numerous times. For decades, she served as a deacon and a volunteer at the First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia. During the last year of her life, she would tell me, "I saw Mom, Dad, Bo and Mike (her brothers), and they are waiting for me." She gathered great peace from knowing they were in heaven to greet her.
Her motto through life was to "do the best you can with what you have at the time." As a high school math teacher, she always had high expectations of her students, and she always believed in their great potential. More often than not, they met her expectations.
Smart, spunky, determined, funny, a fighter -- she had sparkling blue eyes and a constant smile on her face. She loved her family and friends. She was the first in her family to graduate from college and, at a time when math was considered by many to be a man's field, was often the only woman in her college math classes.
She really did the best she could with what she had at the time.
I wonder if, today, we are doing the best we can do.
Late last month, the story broke about an attack against Jussie Smollett. "'EMPIRE' STAR JUSSIE SMOLLETT VICTIM OF HOMOPHOBIC ATTACK By MAGA Supporters," read the TMZ headline. According to the story, "'Empire' star Jussie Smollett was brutally attacked by 2 men who beat him up, put his head in a noose and screamed, 'This is MAGA country.'"
There was no "alleged" qualification of the account. Activists and politicians quickly condemned the alleged attack. Subsequently, the police investigation has uncovered conflicting details about what really happened, which has raised questions about whether the alleged attack was planned and paid for by Smollett.
As his story appeared to be unravelling, Smollett was interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America" by anchor Robin Roberts. Smollett concluded the interview saying: "I think people need to hear the truth. 'Cause everybody has their own idea. Some are healing, and some are hurtful, but I just want young people, young members of the LGBTQ community -- young black children -- to know how strong that they are."
A little less than a week later, CBS News in Chicago reported that two brothers claimed Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the "attack." They also claim that he orchestrated a letter he received earlier in January that contained a white substance with an anti-black, anti-gay message.
The intersection of this story and my mother's birthday has led me to wonder: Was this the best he could do with the platform he had at the time? Instead of helping "young people, young members of the LGBTQ community -- young black children -- to know how strong that they are," he provided an example of staging acts.
"Jussie Smollett's hoax is symptomatic of America's illness," wrote reporter Andy Ngo in National Review on Feb. 18. "Because of the mainstreaming of academia's victimhood culture, we are now in a place where we place more value on being a victim than on being heroic, charitable, or even kind. Victims or victim groups high on intersectionality points (intersections of minority status) are supposed to be coveted, treated with child gloves, and believed unreservedly. Their 'lived experience' gives them infinite wisdom. Those who urge caution are treated as bigots."
While Ngo might be right in diagnosing the illness, the cure is what's important. Possibly, we should follow my mother's example: We should expect more from ourselves, have high expectations for others and push them to use all the talent that God has given them. In her words, we should strive to "do the best we can with what we have at the time." While also "looking out for and loving one another."