By LIBBO CROSSWHITE
Walk in Love
This school year is a big one for the Crosswhite family. Our oldest, Mary Thomas, has started 3-year-old kindergarten. It is impossible to adequately describe the amount of anticipation and excitement that our girl had for finally getting to go to “mom’s school.” For me, it was one of those weird times where I wasn’t sure whether to cry or be as excited as her. Mixed emotions and crying, in general, seem to be a common theme of motherhood. One thing I knew for certain is that this would be a special time for both of us.
Twenty-five years ago, I walked into the same doors and began my journey at the MRA kindergarten. For me, kindergarten was a safe haven and I can remember everyone in the building surrounding me with love and support. My family was walking through my dad’s terminal cancer and there wasn’t a day that went by that someone in our village wasn’t taking care of us and loving us well.
Can we all just take a minute and praise Jesus for those in our village? Big or small, family or friends, functional or dysfunctional, our village of people who help us raise our children are so many times our saving grace. I admittedly am an absolute mess and would be lost without mine; I like to think people want me in their village so that they can always know that they have it more together than at least one person. I have accepted my role as the village idiot and not to brag, but I am really quite good at it.
This next-generation kindergarten journey for us has brought one special person back into my mind, into our lives, and forever in the village. In a way that only God can orchestrate, the same teacher that taught me more than she will ever realize is the same teacher that greets Mary Thomas each morning. What makes Ms. Bagwell so special is her ability to intentionally love well. Growing up, she would often take me home with her after school. I so vividly remember her cabinets being stocked with the good stuff—lemon cookies, Cheetos and Fruit Roll Ups. She was always going out of her way to make me feel loved and one memory, in particular, will forever be a part of who I am.
I will never forget them. They were floral Keds that literally seemed to shine off the shelf. We were at the mall running an errand and I remember Ms. Bagwell stopping in front of the window and saying, “Let’s go get you some shoes.” They were the first pair I can remember putting on my feet and I remember being so over-the-moon excited. To her, it was probably just a pair of shoes. To me, it was the beginning of my walk with Jesus. Looking back, I truly believe that Ms. Bagwell bought me those shoes that day as a reminder of God’s goodness. God had so clearly surrounded my family with people who loved us because they first loved Him.
And 13 years later, as I was leaving for my first day of senior year, a pair of tennis shoes waited for me on my car with a note attached: “Good luck on your first day of senior year! Will always love you, Ms. Bagwell.”
She continued to love well. And my first day of work in the “big-girl world”? You guessed it. A pair of shoes from Ms. Bagwell wishing me the best on my new journey. All gifts of love—each pair representing a milestone in my life and reminding me to walk in the Truth and serve others in love.
Ms. Bagwell lives out what Paul talks about in Galatians; that we are called to live in the freedom of the gospel rather than indulging in our flesh. And we are challenged to serve one another humbly in love.
I think we have convinced ourselves that in order to really impress Jesus or prove our love for Him, we have to do extravagant things. That unless we are on a stage or serving in a big capacity we are insignificant in the case for Christ. Jesus tells us over and over again in scripture it’s just the opposite. Ms. Bagwell looked like Jesus to me because she served extra ordinarily. She was kind, thoughtful and saw a need and filled it. How perfectly simple and yet, how incredibly complicated we try to make it.
So, 25 years later, an act of kindness is finally paid back. Nothing brought me greater joy than to walk Mary Thomas in on the first day of school and give Ms. Bagwell a pair of shoes that were so much more than navy blue Keds. A way to say thank you to a woman who so beautifully taught me what generosity looks like.
May we all strive to live generously and set an example for the next generation—so that they too may walk in love and live with hope in the Savior of the world.
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Brandon and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 3 years old and a son, Russell, who is 11/2 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.