When thinking of my grandmother, Juanita White, I think of her laughter , the way she would say my name with that slow Southern drawl, and ginger ale.

She was at the center of a part of my childhood, where Summer days were long and the nights were longer because she did not have cable TV, video games, or, in my childhood mind, any access to civilization.

What she did give me access to was her heart and four giants that would become key figures in my heart and life. In scripture there would be no Joshua without a Moses; no David without a Samuel; and no Paul without Jesus.

I am fully aware of these giants in my life, their shoulders that I stand on, and the access that I have inherited.

Without my grandmother there would not have been a Sandra Bell. Without my grandmother, there would not have been a Herman Bell, without my grandmother, there would not be a Carl Bell, and without my grandmother there would not be, my father, Larry Bell Sr.

She gave me an uncle who exposed me to other countries and worlds in Carl. She gave me an aunt who loved me as if I was her own child in Sandra. She gave me a jolly uncle whose laughter was infectious in Herman; and she gave me a father who paved roads for a living in order to pave a way for me to have a better living.

Her life and the lives of our elders are a reminder to stay focused and not to squander the sacrifices and labor that were made for my father, my aunt, and my uncles that made a way for me.

It is very easy to celebrate the kindness of strangers and just as easy to forget the labor of loved ones. I challenge each and every one of you to not waste what you have been given. If all you’ve been given is a broom, sweep with mastery. If all you’ve been given is a hammer, hammer skillfully. And if all you’ve been given is pain, give it to Christ for His strength and life more abundantly.

The same shoulders that my grandmother stood on to be the women that she was blessed and fortunate to be are the same ones that I now stand on. I did not know her mother or father. I did not know her grandparents. I do not know their gains or loses. But, I knew her. I know the time she spent with me. I know the time she laughed with me and many times at me. I know the times we spent together watching movies and television or going to town, and I thought we were really doing it big when we went to Winnsboro from Jenkinsville. I knew that she loved me.

The old proverb says that “It takes a village to raise a child…” My grandmother gave me a village to stand in and to stand on. She gave me a village full of laughter, joy, love, grace, and mercy. She did not give me a perfect village without its issues or pain. But, she did give me a village I can always call home.

Home is not a location or a destination. Home is a state of mind and a condition of the heart. No matter where I am at in the world because of the love of this house, the love of my aunts and uncles. and the love of my mother and father. I am and will always be home.

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