I remember the first time I met Priscilla.
She came into the Food Pantry on Haskell Avenue with her young son, Jesse. She needed food and assistance with rent or utilities, as I recall.
Her life had not been an easy one. The years had worn hard on her. She appeared to be older than her actual age. Her face was lined with a kind of worry and pain that I had seldom, if ever, seen before.
Her first visit was over ten years ago.
We were in the early stages of "re-tooling" how we did our work.
She came just as we were turning our Food Pantry ministry over to the community--to the people who used it. Everyone who came in was asked to come back and volunteer. In a very short period of time we had more volunteers than we knew what to do with. Almost all were men and women who depended on our services in one way or another.
The "poor" were running our shop. We continue to operate our Resource Center (aka "Food Pantry") in the same manner today.
Priscilla started to come every day.
In the beginning, she didn't have much to say. She was so meek and quite. She didn't say much to anyone.
But as she became accustomed to our environment, she opened up. In a short time she became one of our best volunteers. She became a leader among us.
She seemed to know everyone in the neighborhood.
She could spot a "con" a mile away--there had been a bit of that nature in her own life at one time she once told me.
She became so vital to our work that at one point for a period of time she earned a job on our team. She was in charge of custodial services and she helped us generally keep the place moving.
She learned and mastered almost every function in our center. We came to depend on her as a trusted partner and leader.
She became involved in our little community of faith in the church that meets here. She was almost always present on Sundays and helped host the meal we served each week back then.
Following her life and her progress was fun--better, inspiring.
I remember her asking me one day if she could borrow a set of our "Hooked on Phonics" tapes and workbooks. She wanted to learn to read.
She would listen to the taped lessons as she ran the vacuum cleaner in the two buildings we operated at that time.
Before too long she approached me one day and asked me to sit down. I did as I was told and Priscilla stood before me and read from a book! She had taught herself to read.
Tears flowed that day!
Priscilla continued to grow and become stronger as a person. Lots of things happened to her and she touched many people.
As she continued her growth as a person, she began moving away from our community. She landed a better job with another organization, and after awhile she disappeared.
She and Jesse would stop in from time to time to catch up and tell everyone hello.
Our community continued to change and turn over. We lost track of her. I suppose the last time I saw her was two or three years ago.
This past week Jesse dropped by to tell me that his mother was dying of cancer. I had already heard the news from a mutual friend.
Yesterday Priscilla died.
She lived and died as a relatively poor and humble person.
But her life counted.
She used her talent to benefit her community and her world.
Tears have flowed over the past couple of days. More will follow.
I'm thankful that I knew her.
She touched my life. I am better for having known Priscilla.