Sometimes a person makes a lasting impact without ever even knowing about it. Some of the seemingly insignificant actions or bits of conversation become vastly important in passing on spiritual blessings from one generation to another. Though I did thank her for her wonderful care of my little boy, I’m sure Miss Velma never realized how important her influence was.
She wasn’t the president of anything as far as I know. She wasn’t chairman of any committee, didn’t stand and speak before groups. She was never voted Woman of the Year. She seldom ever attended worship services at our church. But it wasn’t because she wasn’t worshipful. It was because she was always in the nursery. At least that’s how I remember Miss Velma. She and her sister Miss Tessie and their good friend Cammie Peacock visited prospects for our church every Sunday afternoon. That’s how I first met this cute little simply dressed lady with bright eyes and thinning hair. But I was to know her much better as the teacher of my son when he was two years old.
Cuy Broome was Director of Preschoolers at that time and for many, many years afterward. He and his wife, Evelyn, were so kind to us as we started taking our little son to the nursery when he was only six weeks old. They visited in our home and made us feel our little boy was the dearest and sweetest in the whole world. William was always happy to go to church. In fact, some of his first words were “Mister Cuy.” The nursery area at that time had a half door over which parents could pass their precious cargo to a smiling, eager nursery worker. One of those was Miss Velma.
Miss Velma was unassuming, always cheerful, and utterly faithful. But I knew more about her from listening to my son’s growing vocabulary than from talking that much to her. For instance, the following little episode sticks in my memory as so precious.
We lived in an old log house that had been covered with brick so was now more a mid-nineteen-fifties home than an eighteen-forty house. When the Stricklands had modernized the house they chose to leave just a couple of places where the hand hewn logs were exposed. One was in an upstairs closet, not readily observed. The other was very visible. In the front foyer they had built a nice window so one could look, not outdoors, but directly into the beautiful logs with their ancient ax marks. The window had a nice wide sill, a charming place to set a favorite wedding present: a bronze statue of life size praying hands.
One day I was dusting the praying hands when William left his little cars and came to my side. He reached up and ran a small finger along the wrinkled hands tented together in supplication. In his developing southern accent William said with quiet awe, “Mish Vemma’s haaands.” I looked down at his little blonde head and swallowed hard. Obviously, Miss Velma had not been just keeping the nursery. She had prayed with her little folks. She had folded her own wrinkled workworn hands as she prayed. By now, William was on his knees again driving little cars along the floor boards. But I had learned a lesson.
Never discount the influence of the simplest actions. Never forget the power of the Holy Spirit at work on even the very young.
Miss Velma wasn’t in church years later when William made an open profession of faith and then was baptized on Easter Sunday. No, Miss Velma was still in the nursery, probably folding her hands in a simple prayer with tiny boys and girls. They might not later remember the good times they had playing with the toys or how they loved to hear Miss Velma in her deep soothing voice reading a story. But they would tuck somewhere in their beings the memory of Miss Velma’s praying hands.