When I was a very young teenager, we lived next door to a family with five children under the age of ten. We were new in the area and didn’t know them very well, but we knew those basics.
One Sunday morning my mother was reading the newspaper over a last cup of coffee when I heard her gasp. The paper slipped out of her fingers into her lap and onto the floor. The father of the family next door had been killed in an automobile collision the night before.
She immediately dressed and walked over to our neighbors’ home to see what she could do. About an hour later we left for worship services as usual. While we were there she organized a food drive, asking individuals in the church to bring whatever shelf stable items they could spare on Wednesday evening. Afterward we headed back home, but my mother wasn’t finished.
We walked in to that wonderful Sunday aroma of pot roast. Even after all these years, I have never been able to replicate my mother’s. But instead of immediately changing clothes and starting to prepare our dinner, she grabbed an apron and started telling my sister and I what she needed us to do. She made the gravy, heated the rolls, and then proceeded to pack up the entire meal. We stowed it all in big cardboard boxes in the trunk and then drove to the home of the man’s parents, where his wife and children had gathered with the rest of the family. I remember walking up the steps to that frame house, holding that hot gravy in a Tupperware container, careful not to squeeze too tight so the steam wouldn’t cause the lid to pop right off. We handed our dinner to the stunned people inside, then offered condolences and drove back home.
We came in, changed clothes and sat down to paper plates, bologna, and bread. There was nothing else easy to prepare on short notice. Understand this: I hated bologna. But I relished every bite of that sandwich. Nothing had ever tasted so good. That’s what giving does to you. That is precisely why Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
I have often wondered if I have given my children enough of those kind of memories, lessons learned that you never forget, not even the smallest details. Are you doing that for your children? Do they see things that involve them and stay with them, teaching them the joy of giving to those in need, even if it costs you a little something.
I learned it the day I ate that sandwich and loved every bite of it and I have never forgotten that lesson. And in case you wondered, our brothers and sisters in the church came through on that food drive. We went to Bible study that Wednesday night expecting at most a couple brown grocery bags full to add to the one we brought. I think we took three empties just in case to store the cans and boxes we expected to be handed. Almost every member brought their own brown paper bag and nearly every one of them was full to the top.
We stopped next door on our way home, and carried those bags in that Wednesday night. The new young widow watched in amazement as the four of us traipsed back and forth to the car, over and over and over. We covered her table, her countertops, and half her kitchen floor with grocery bags. That’s another sight I will never forget—her grabbing my mother around the neck and squeezing tightly as she said, “Thank you, thank you, oh thank you,” again and again and again, tears running down her cheeks. It’s been over forty years, but it’s like it was yesterday as I sit here remembering.
Learn the gift of generous giving, giving even out of want, giving when it costs you something. And above all, teach your children exactly how amazing a bologna sandwich can taste.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2Cor 8:1-7.
Hilda Ayers passed from this life into glory on November 20, 2019.
She was born on June 12, 1928, in Jakin, Georgia, just across the Florida-Georgia state line. Her mother, Estelle, had returned to her childhood home with her 18 month old son Harvey Lee (Dick) to have her second child while her husband Joseph Lee Davis stayed home to continue his work as a carpenter. Three weeks later, he returned to pick up his growing family and take them back home to Winter Garden, Florida, in a small frame house at 91 N. Main St.
Winter Garden sits in Central Florida just 10 miles from Orlando, the typical small southern town with a railroad running down the center and diagonal parking in front of a dime store, a barber shop, a bank, a Piggly Wiggly, and a drug store complete with soda fountain. This small town was surrounded by orange groves and packing houses—at least until the Mouse became king.
Hilda graduated from Lakeview High School in 1946 and a year later, on September 6, 1947, married her high school sweetheart, Gerald Ayers. Their strong marriage lasted 64 years, until his death on September 11, 2011. Their first home was in Winter Garden, but with Gerald's job changes and promotions they also lived in Orlando, Palmetto, Tampa, and Orlando once again where he retired.
She was mainly a stay-at-home mom, but whenever the need arose, she took a job and worked as a bank teller, as a clerk in the registrar's office of the University of South Florida, and finally as an administrative assistant in the Orange County School System in Winter Garden, back where it all began.
After retirement they enjoyed a small bit of traveling, but stayed active in the Lord's church wherever they lived. They left behind a string of good deeds, generous gifts, and the strong example of godly lives.
In 2015, Hilda moved to Gainesville to be closer to her older daughter for both companionship and care. She became a member of the Glen Springs Road church and instantly made a host of new friends with her sweet disposition and quick wit. She will be missed by too many to list.
Hilda is survived by her daughters Dene (Mrs. Keith) Ward of Lake Butler and Donna (Mrs. Dennis) Craig of Roanoke, Texas, brother Johnnie (Jan) Davis of Leesburg, sister Bonnie MacDonald of Elijay, Georgia, 9 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. She was pre-deceased by husband Gerald, brother Harvey Lee (Dick) Davis, and sister Jo Ann Webb.
Her biggest legacy is this: of her 2 children, 9 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren and their appropriate spouses, every one of those who are accountable before God are His faithful children. Her great faith will live on.