Respecting My Elders


Opportunities  to get involved in the community abound in the area surrounding Transylvania. There are shelters, clinics, and churches that all cater to the charitable desires of community members old and young.I myself have been privileged enough to serve in several different volunteer capacities while at Transy – as a tutor of underprivileged children, volunteer at the Salvation Army, etc. – and count these experiences as some of my most informative and empowering.

This past week, however, while working at a local soup drive, I encountered an elderly women whose outlook and positivity inspired and encouraged me to be a better student, person, and friend. While working at the drive, I noticed this lady huddled in a corner, clutching what looked from a distance to be a lunch box to her chest. After serving several patrons, I proceeded to approach the woman, and strike up a conversation. It turns out that the “lunch box” was actually a book, and not just any book, but Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe,” a classic. I couldn’t help but be surprised.

Noticing the surprise splayed cross my face, the woman introduced herself as Mrs. Jane Lee Reenum, a college graduate from Murray State University who also instructed at the university briefly before marrying an officer in the military and beginning a nomadic life of travel and travail. Although she had lost her son and husband, was bereft of any other family or a home to call her own, Mrs. Reenum intoned to me her fervent desire to, “keep my mind sharp and my eyes reading,” because, in her words, “knowledge is a possession no one can take away from you,” before exhorting that I make absolutely sure to stay in school and “watch out for those pretty young girls.”

Mrs. Reenum’s genial personality and gregariousness were heartwarming, but it was her wise advice that struck me the strongest. Sometimes I take my education for granted, and you probably do, too. Mrs. Reenum’s example reminded me that few things in life endure, but the pervasive power of knowledge will always be one of them.