We are profiling individuals and families at FUMC that are living out faithful stewardship in their lives through prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. After her death, Mrs. White left her modest home and her car, her entire estate, to FUMC. She wasn’t a wealthy woman, but she gave from her heart to her church.
BY DR. SALLY CLAUSEN
I met Helen Louise Storm White as a result of an assignment given me by the Senior Care Team of FUMC. On the appointed day I arrived at the home of Mrs. White exactly on time, 11:00. She was standing in the driveway of her home sharply dressed and waiting for me. After a brief chat during which she established that I was indeed the Sally Clausen from FUMC who was supposed to visit with her, she invited me into her home. It was neat and dated with pictures of her family and travels. We chatted for about forty-five minutes after which I offered to pick up some lunch. She said we could just go to Sammy’s on the corner on Highland Road, near her home. It was clear that her plan for the meeting was being followed. When we arrived at Sammy’s I learned that she was a regular, as everyone there knew her, and that she had a standard order, a Sammy’s shrimp po-boy. She also had a special table.
Several visits after the first, I learned that she was a regular attendee at church, but was not a participant in other activities even though she was gregarious, always dressed to the nines, sharp witted and firm in her opinions. She was 96 years old at the time of my visitations. During those visits she was proud of her family, though she had no close relatives. She enthusiastically showed family pictures, and on one occasion she climbed up and stood on a bed to straighten and show a picture hanging on the wall. She was full of energy and got her exercise picking up sticks in her yard. She liked to be with people.
I learned that in her working life she had been the hostess at the LSU Faculty Club, a place where she had been able to meet people with very varied backgrounds and disciplines, and it was obvious that she had had many opportunities to engage in eclectic conversations. It was also obvious that she missed that opportunity to connect with people. Oddly, she remembered my going there, explaining that as a graduate student I was brought there as a guest of some faculty members. She remembered me “because I was skinny!”.
Mrs. White was a vivacious but controlled and dignified demeanor. She had a fierce independence which she was determined to maintain for the rest of her life. She loved to drive and was proud of her little red car. In spite of her love of people she had little social engagement, but enjoyed even remote contact. She treasured that cards she received at Christmas, for birthdays, or other occasions. She enjoyed her contacts with people she knew even casually, such as her hairdresser, bank tellers, grocery helpers and others with whom she met in her normal daily chores. She knew these people by name and spoke of them fondly. It was clear that she craved social engagement but somehow, because of the restraining attendant to her dignity, and the era in which she matured, she was unable to satisfy her need for a more active social life.
I also learned that within her quiet, reserved personality she was deeply religious, and was proud of her membership in FUMC, and her regular attendance at church services on Sunday, dressed very appropriately and seated always in the same pew in the right front quadrant of the church.
As I continued to visit with Mrs. White I began to learn more about her indomitable spirit. She had the learned experience of life that can only be achieved with the passage of time, and therefore, with age. I began to understand that it wasn’t necessary for me to be worried about graduation rates, or adequate access to higher education, or social equality in higher education, or having enough money in a budget to meet the demands of providing adequate higher education in order to be happy in life. I learned that providing the needs of those in our community who are in need of the simple things, such as a willing ear, or just small talk or being a person whose presence was of enormous importance was quite enough to fulfill a need for happiness. And in order to obtain that happiness required so little of me. So in the end, I was reminded of the teaching in Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given to you.” So true with Mrs. White, that I gave so little, only to be given so much in return.
One of John Wesley’s famous statements of advice is,
“Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”
Wesley put restrictions on the way we gain all we can. Earning money was discouraged if it came at the expense of our own health, whether physical or spiritual. The business we conduct should be fitting to a life dedicated to God.
Similarly, the way we save all we can also matters. For Wesley, saving meant avoiding any expense that was simply for our own pleasure, rather than for taking care of a legitimate need. He understood that indulging our desires could lead us away from God. He also understood that spending money on unnecessary items left less for us to give to others. The point of saving is not hoarding; it is giving.
To give all we can is to reflect God’s own generosity and thus to participate in God’s work. If we think about the use of money as a spiritual discipline, then we can see that the point is not to give away what we think is extra. The point is to play our role in distributing God’s resources equitably, not denying our own needs, but seeing the needs of others to be as legitimate as our own.
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