Aunt Mabel was born in 1911.
If you were born in 1911, you might have grown up hearing a lot about Lincoln’s assassination, a grandmother who died while giving birth to your mother, and all about the heroes and horrors of Gettysburg.
Instead of waiting in line with millions at the Apple Store to buy the latest iPhone, you might have gone with your father to drive home the family’s first horseless carriage—Ford’s revolutionary Model-T, which rolled off the assembly line in 1908.
The “War To End All Wars” would have come and gone before you finished the first grade, but by the time you were eighteen years old—the time when many kids looked forward to college—you might have been searching for a job that paid ten cents a day, just to help your family keep food on the table.
The attack on Pearl Harbor climaxed the year in which you turned thirty and, within a few short months, your brothers, neighbors, cousins, and possibly your husband, would have been off to Europe or the South Pacific.
Several years ago I was speaking at the Juice Plus+ Regional meeting in St. Louis. On Saturday afternoon, I gave a talk entitled “Leaving a Legacy.” I talked about the people who have had the greatest impact on my life—people like Curt and Jackie Beavers, my parents and my older brother, Curtis. We’ve all heard me refer so often to my professor in seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks, who filled my heart with such a huge passion to teach and mentor people.
Then, I started talking about my 96-year old Aunt Mabel from Kerrville, Texas—my mother’s older sister. Because she never had children of her own and because of her special relationship with my mom, I had an ongoing “up close and personal” relationship with Aunt Mabel. And when I lost my 45-year old mother to cancer in 1961, the connection with Aunt Mabel went to a whole new level. She remained throughout my life more like a mother to me than anyone else.
Every time Sally and I visited Aunt Mabel, she loved to re-tell the story of my little-boy attempts at climbing the peach tree in her back yard. I had watched my big brother do it many times, but I always struggled, finding it almost impossible to pull myself up to that first limb.
“I can’t do it, Aunt Mamie,” I would whine and complain, “It’s too hard.” She would smile, chuckle a little, and respond with, “Well, David, if you say you can’t do it, then you can’t. But, but if you say you can do it, then you can. Come on David—I know you can do it!”
When I did finally get to that first limb, I would look over at her before climbing again and say, “Keep talkin’ to me, Aunt Mamie. Don’t stop talkin’ to me.”
Her enthusiasm and confidence in me fueled my clumsy, fearful efforts to keep moving. I simply could not go any further unless I heard her speaking that lavish encouragement into my life.
Quite honestly, neither can we.
I am sure that the real reason that any of us keep moving, working through our fears and reaching our goals is because there’s a handful of “Aunt Mabels” loving and encouraging us—believing in us before we believe in ourselves.
Mary Sherer is a special friend of mine, as well as a National Marketing Director with Juice Plus+. After she had heard this story about me and my Aunt Mabel, she put together her own program for encouraging and developing her “rising” Juice Plus+ leaders. Mary called it The Aunt Mabel Project. She even designed a special ribbon for everyone to wear at our Leadership Conference.
When I told Aunt Mabel about The Aunt Mabel Project, she nearly fainted. The idea of leaving any kind of legacy had never occurred to this loving, unassuming little lady who had never stopped pouring into me. I can hear her voice and feel her love inside me every day.
Less than a month after Mary announced The Aunt Mabel Project, my “Aunt Mamie” died in her home in Texas. I cried with my brother over the phone, both of us amazed at how she had shaped our lives since we were little boys. Her body was flown back to Georgia where she was laid near her parents and grandparents. I was honored to speak at the graveside service, and to tell the story one more time about the woman who said to me so many times, “Come on David—I know you can do it.”
Mary had just sent me a stack of her ribbons as a personal “thanks” for telling my story. So, I thought it was a good idea for me to give all the people at the graveside their own ribbon, since they too had felt Aunt Mabel’s love, gentleness and encouragement throughout their lives.
We are privileged and blessed to have this business—and to have each other. So, let’s keep pouring into each other, believing in each other and keeping alive Aunt Mabel’s legacy of lavish encouragement.