I haven't given much thought to my values lately as they seemed to have been a subconscious rather than a conscious thing. Preparing to write an essay on values, I began to question how they were formed and who was responsible for forming them.
As far back as I can recall, my mother, Lillie Schumacher Martin, guided me in her gentle way by her actions more so than words. When I learned the childhood prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep ...," she taught me to ask for blessings for others rather than myself.
Mama was a remarkable woman who as a bright young student in 1920 was forced to forgo her formal education at age 16 to help support and rear her five younger siblings when her father was killed. A strong sense of responsibility was developed through this experience. Regardless of how bad a person appeared to others, she could always see something good in them. She did not judge but showed respect and compassion for all.
We lived in a rural area during the Great Depression, and our family, like many others, struggled to make ends meet. Sharing what you had with others was prevalent then, and she sacrificed to share.
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I watched as she always made a point to stop and pick up anyone walking the road into town or back. Our old Model A Ford carried the neighbor children to school and often two tired old black gentlemen home from their day's work because they had no cars. She was criticized for the latter, but her empathy for the less fortunate was stronger than the ridicule of the prejudiced.
I listened as she taught another neighbor who was illiterate how to count money so an unscrupulous merchant couldn't take advantage of her when she sold her eggs to him. Honesty and truthfulness were high on my mother's agenda.
I think values are sometimes passed from generation to generation in some families. My mother's grandmother was so involved in the movement for equality for women that she named her only daughter, my grandmother, born in 1884, Belva Lockwood, after the first woman to run for president.
My grandmother Belva grew up knowing the injustice done to women and blacks before they were afforded the right to vote because she, at one time, could not vote. At age 90, confined to a wheelchair, she still insisted on being taken to the polls to cast her ballot because it had been a hard-won victory.
All three of these ancestors of mine were women of strength and integrity who always looked to help others. Hopefully this has continued in my generation and will be passed on to the future generations of my family.
Our values become a way of life. We must have respect and compassion for all and sometimes do that which is not the most popular thing to do. Knowing what is right and choosing to do it in the face of adversity, regardless of the consequences, would reflect one's true values.