In 2006 Mrs. Ruthel Andrews Patrick received the Mother of the Year award for the state of Georgia. It was presented by the Georgia Mother’s Association and was based on a detailed process that included recommendations from community leaders. She was sponsored by the Cordele Woman’s Club.
The front-page story carried by The Cordele Dispatch mentioned Crisp County as being her home. She and her husband, Mr. Bo Patrick, are long-time residents there, but her roots run deep in the same place as mine, the Third District Community in Dooly County.
Miss Ruthel was born April 15, 1930, less than a half mile from Joiner’s Store which my grandfather owned. She was a student at Williams School, a one-room building that was abandoned long before my childhood in the 1950s. Her cousin, Faye DeLoach, salvaged an unpainted board from there and gave it to her as a keepsake. That old piece of wood is quite valuable because she measures its worth in memories. Miss Ruthel later attended Union High, a larger country school in that same area, then graduated from Pinehurst High School in 1947.
That background may not have much to do with her being named Mother of the Year. I’m a bit partial toward Third District, so maybe I was just looking for an excuse to brag a little about one of our own. But those formative years in rural Georgia no doubt influenced her approach to raising children.
When I asked about her mother, the first thing she said was that faith was important in their family. She and her six siblings were brought up in church, a practice that Miss Ruthel and Mr. Bo followed with their three children. Their commitment to an active faith was passed on to eleven grandchildren and is now being taught to nine great-grandchildren. They keep adding links to their chain of faith.
Solomon said in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” A proverb is something that’s likely to happen but not guaranteed. The extended Patrick family, however, gives evidence of Solomon’s wisdom.
While faith is the foundation of her parenting, Miss Ruthel says her philosophy is best summed up by the word love. “Our children have always known that we loved them unconditionally.” Love, coupled with a strong faith, seems quite enough for successful parenting. Miss Ruthel, however, has one other aspect she considers vital, which is to teach your children to set goals to work toward. Her three-pronged approach reminds me again of King Solomon, this time from Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A strand of three chords is not quickly broken.”
May 12th is Mother’s Day, a good occasion to thank our mothers in some special way. Having a godly mother is a blessing that’s easily taken for granted. I have an exceptional mother whose manner of parenting has been much like that of Miss Ruthel, one of love, faith, and encouragement. Many of you have been blessed and have blessed your own children in similar ways.
Perhaps Mother’s Day is also an appropriate time for inward reflection on the role of a parent. Mothers have an unsurpassed ability to love and to nurture, but a growing challenge is to impart a vibrant faith to the next generation. While faith is constantly under attack in a secular world, a more severe issue may be the increasingly dispassionate efforts to instill the tenets of Christianity in our children. If we choose to embrace a casual faith, we’ll fail to convey the depth of His grace.
For those mothers who are shaping the lives of future generations, I hope that you’ll give Miss Ruthel’s three-point philosophy a try. Unconditional love is powerful beyond measure. Encouraging our children to set worthy goals is a tremendous practice. But a cord of two strands is not enough. The strand of faith is essential if we are to be the parents God intended.
Some of you may be thinking that I’m not qualified to give advice to mothers. I’ve been thinking that exact same thing. So, don’t take this advice from me, take it from the Mother of the Year.
Happy Mother’s Day to all. May God bless and guide every one of you.