Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Lessons I learned from Grandmamma Tillie – #3 “Putting others First”

The following is the third in a ten part series of: “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Putting others first

Grandmamma Feemster Mother's Day 2009

In 1994, I joined the Santee Rotary Club while I was Executive Director of the Tri County Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was there I was exposed to the club’s motto “Service above Self,” the underlying premise behind one of the world’s largest service organization with 31,000 clubs in 166 countries.  Today, I am a member of the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club which has a profound impact on our region.

However, long before my membership in Rotary, my Grandmother Feemster taught me to put others first through her limitless compassion and service. Grandmamma was the oldest of six kids and spent her days looking after her brothers, sisters, and later her children and grandchildren.

Early in her life a family member nicknamed her “Tillie the Toiler” and the name Tillie stuck. Toiled she did, working in a textile mill like many in rural South Carolina. Later in life she spent countless hours behind a sewing machine creating dresses and garments for her daughters, close family members, and friends.

Rarely did she ever sew anything for herself. It was a pretty safe bet that pretty little dress or sleek pants suit was for someone other than herself.

As a child, I spent most of my weekends in McConnells (SC) with Grandmamma Tillie while my grandfather went fishing with his buddies. On Saturday mornings, we would go into town, as she referred to it, where she would always buy me a little “pretty.” Then we spent the rest of the day with her looking at the latest designs and styles so she could buy the pattern and sew someone a “pretty” of their own.

Regardless of how well she felt, Grandmother would be the first by the bedside of a sick relative and the last to leave. She took to heart the verse in Philippians (Chapter 2 Verse 3): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Too often when we meet folks for the first time, our thoughts are what do they think of us rather than what we can do for them. Many often seek out the credit rather than sharing the credit with others. Some of us learn too late that when we put others first, that is when we truly get ahead ourselves.

In February we lost Grandmamma Tillie. She was with us for 93 glorious years and taught me a great deal about life. My mother asked that I speak at the funeral and I shared a conversation I had with grandmamma when I asked what was her favorite hymn? Without hesitation, she replied, “In the garden.”

I can still hear her starting to softly sing the lyrics on our way to church that morning. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses, and He walks with me…”

Grandmamma Feemster - (Tillie) Taken around 1962

I know that my Grandmother Feemster stands in the garden today. Surrounded by the brothers and sisters she cared for so much in life. This time though, she’s wearing a new dress of her own…. stitched in love and sewn by the hand of God.

Her lesson of compassion, putting others first, is one more lesson, I learned along the way.


May 7, 2011 Posted by | Personal | , , , , | Leave a comment