Live Until You Die & Then Die Boldly!
I loved and admired Dr. Johnetta Walker Neal and I told her so often. I‘m so glad I did because she died unexpectedly last Wednesday, not much more than a week after I saw her last. On March 24, she participated in the Fourth Annual Phenomenal Women Speak community event in Brownsville, TN, and I poured it on extra thick in the mushy note I included in her gift bag. Her response back to me March 28, “you’re a real star,” made me feel 10 feet tall and as rich as Oprah and Bill and Melinda Gates!
I was the proud president and CEO of her fan club and she knew it. She was always elegant and sophisticated and I NEVER heard her be angry, mean or unkind to anyone. When she wore coverings on her head, she looked stunning and regal. I, on the other hand, looked like young Celie Johnson from the movie, The Color Purple!
I don’t recall a time when she wasn’t part of my life. In my earliest remembrances from church and family gatherings, (we were cousins) she always treated me like a person of great worth and not some bratty nuisance. She intentionally encouraged and included me in everything and gently nudged me to stay focused and keep moving ahead. As I have gotten older, I know how important this is for children and others who too often get overlooked or banished to a corner to be seen and not heard.
I’m sharing her with you today because I want to be like her when I grow up. I want to lift, empower, inspire, reach out and up—be a lantern and a ladder as one writer said, be a beacon of light and hope like Jesus, and help someone go North as she so powerfully put it (escaped slaves were encouraged to follow the North Star to freedom and don’t give up or turn back when the going got tough). She was a loving wife and soulmate to Rowan for 48 years and one week, a doting mom, grandmother, sister, cousin, aunt, activist and friend and was most excellent in each role.
As you help me bask in Johnetta’s amazing life, let’s plan to live our own with passion, grace, patience, courage, purpose and integrity. Here’s why:
- No matter what kind of life we live, someone’s going to want to be like us. Let’s leave a beautiful and extraordinary example to follow.
- Kindness and intentional care are the common denominator in relationships. When we lend a hand, offer an encouraging word or genuine interest, it poignantly reminds us that we are all important in the sight of God.
- Showing up and being/having a non-anxious but essential presence should be our daily goal. Keep calm and carry on is an old British slogan but it’s a good word for today and an even more excellent way to live a life of service every day.
- Honesty and integrity always matter and what we do in private has to match what we show the world. That means we keep our word, we lift as we climb, we go out of our way to make a difference, and when our time comes to go, we rejoice and give thanks for the journey. AMEN.
Be blessed and keep shining!
Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. All the way from Stanton, TN (you can’t get there from here) to 50 states, six continents and everything in between, she’s wise, witty and altogether wonderful. She enthusiastically invites you to slow down, sit a spell, and share a giggle or two.