Tag Archives: Childhood

What Can God Do With 57 Cents?

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True Story

by Author unknown

A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it “was too crowded.” “I can’t go to Sunday School, “she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school. For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.

But the story does not end there! A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a Realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for 57 cents. Church members made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300 and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time. In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell, author of the book, “acres of Diamonds”—a true story. It goes to show you “What God CAN Do With 57 Cents.”

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A first-hand account of this story is in a sermon delivered December 1, 1912 by Russell H. Conwell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia.  Rev. Conwell said the little girl’s name was Hattie May Wiatt

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 10

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I know I said Sherita was an ugly girl and that remains true. I am not saying I was all that and a bag of chips because I was not. I was just a short, thin-framed girl but I did have something that Sherita would never have — long, thick, naturally-beautiful, dark brown hair, flawless caramel-brown skin and a gorgeous smile. Yeah, yeah, she had thighs, legs and a big butt, but that is all she had going for her and I believe she already knew that. Sherita’s and my birthday came around, both were in April. Hers on April 21st and mine on the 24th but she was a year older than I.

Esther decided to take me to the doctor to get my ears pierced for my eighth birthday. I was excited that I was going to be able to wear earrings. Big Momma had purchased a cute white dress for me to wear on my special day but before I could go get my ears pierced and wear my birthday outfit, I had to get my hair washed and pressed. The only thing I did not care for was getting my hair hot combed and because my hair was long and thick it seemed like it took forever. My hair had to be done this way on a weekly basis because I had “grade N” hair, that is, nappy.

After my hair was done and gorgeous, we went to the clinic to get my ears pierced. The nurse put silver studs into both of my ears and I must say the earrings enhanced my appearance. You could not tell me anything at this point. After being blessed with my new earrings, Esther took Sherita, Pauline and me out to dinner and a movie for our birthday.

Things were not always bad around the house, but you can bet your last dollar if trouble happened, Sherita’s name was all over it. One of those bad days sure came into that house unexpectedly, a day I can never forget and I know Sherita can never forget it either.

We were on our way home from school on a warm day, when Sherita and I came across a stranger. Our school was only a block away from the house and there was a vacant lot that many of us would use as a shortcut as we went home. We were walking down the hill of this empty lot, with Sherita ahead of me, when a young man approached Sherita. She stopped and they began talking to one another.

I was looking at this young man, who I definitely knew was not near our age, but something was familiar about him. He started walking and Sherita began walking behind him as if she was following him. I started speed walking to catch up with her and asked if she knew him. She said as clear as day, “Yes, just come on” and I assumed everything was okay. But everything was far from okay.

The next thing I knew, Sherita and I were in a dark garage with this young man. He put a knife up to Sherita’s throat and told me to sit down and cover my eyes. I put my hands over my face but peeked through my fingers as he sexually assaulted Sherita. He made her take off her pants and underwear and unbutton her blouse then made her lay on that dirty ground where he assaulted her. I remember him kissing her and rubbing his hands all over her body. I could see Sherita was scared because he still had that knife at her throat. He would look over at me to see if my eyes were still covered.

I could not believe what was happening and hoped that I was not next to be touched, or worse he would kill us both. The worst report a neighborhood could hear on the nightly news was that two young girls were sexually assaulted and found dead in a garage directly across the street from their house.

After the stranger finished, he told Sherita to get dressed and for us to wait in the garage for twenty minutes after he left and that we’d better not tell anyone what he had just done. We did as we were told and came out of the garage with both of us looking to make sure he was gone as we ran across the street to the house. Sherita was crying as she told her family the horrible thing that just happened to her on our way home from school. They asked us who it was, where it happened, what happened, and so forth.

The police were called to the scene and everybody was still in shock about the news they just heard as the police questioned us about the man’s description. I can still recall how he looked as if it was yesterday.

Remember when I said I did not know him, but he looked familiar? He was about 5’7”, medium built, light-skinned complexion with red freckles and a reddish-color afro. He was just red! I know there are little sayings like all black people look alike or everybody has a twin. Whatever the case may be, he looked just like the uninvited young man who was in our apartment when my family moved into Stateway Gardens.

Hey, let’s look at this — Big Momma’s house was on 58th and LaSalle and Stateway Gardens was on 39th and State. It is not far because State Street is only two streets away from LaSalle Street. Therefore, there is a possibility that this could be the same person.

Just when I thought things could not get any worse than they already were, guess what — they did. Guess who was in the kitchen being interrogated by the family about what happened to Sherita? Can you believe they were now blaming this rape on an eight year old? They asked me, “Where were you? Why didn’t you get any help? How did you let this happen?” Excuse me? I was in tears because I could not understand why they were blaming all of this on me. Hello, I might not have been sexually assaulted but I was a victim too! And it could have been worse – we were both still alive! I can understand their anger and frustration but blaming it on the foster child was not the answer.

What hurt me most was when Sherita told her family that she did tell me to go and get help. They asked me if what she said was true, and I said the true answer was no, she did not. I kept telling them exactly what happened but they did not seem to be listening to a word I was saying. I looked at them and wondered why they were not asking Sherita who this person was that she was openly talking to, as if she knew him. What did he tell her that would cause her to follow him in the first place? I mean, he didn’t have anything in his hand that was a threat to her, so why? She was the one that was older and should have known better. Oh, believe me I was cursing them out real well in my mind. It was not my fault y’all did not teach her not to talk to strangers. Ms. Brown taught her baby girl! You can bet that man would not have gotten two words out of me, much less a damn look. But all I could do was sit there crying; wishing all of this would go away.

A couple days later, we went down to the police station to try to identify the young man. They gave Sherita and me some books that were filled with mug shots of different male individuals but unfortunately he was not in any of the books.

Eventually things died down and we moved to a courtyard apartment unit on 69th and Cornell. I cannot recall what apartment floor we resided on but I know I was now attending another school for my third grade year. This school was Parkside Elementary at 6938 South East End Avenue. I don’t remember the teacher’s name or what he or she looked like because I didn’t stay long enough to keep memory of it but for some strange reason I remember the school’s name and where we lived.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.

Passed Around By God But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 9

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After a few months of living in our new foster home, people began to show their true colors. Sherita and Marcus were the troublemakers of the household and Sherita was the leader. Sherita and her brother would do bad things then blame them on Raffeal and me, but mostly me. Sherita was a compulsive liar. Everything that came out of her mouth was lie and she actually believed she was telling the truth.

The first of her devious acts happened one day when we were all sitting in the living room. It was Raffeal, Marcus, Pauline, me and, of course, Sherita. Big Momma or any other adults, to my knowledge, were not there. Melanie was left in charge but she was off in her own little world. Sherita and Marcus decided they wanted to play with fire using a lighter they had found around the house. The strange thing was that I do not know whose it could have been because nobody in the house was a smoker.

They first lit paper and then it was whatever they could set on fire. I can remember this day so well because I was standing in the dining room, which was Big Momma’s room too, when they asked Raffeal if they could light the strings hanging from the legs of his cut-off blue jean shorts I don’t think he understood what they were asking him and I couldn’t believe they were serious. Before I knew it, they had set fire to one of those strings and in an instant that one thin string combusted into a big flame. My baby brother was screaming and hopping around trying to put the fire out and they were laughing at him, so I ran over to rescue him.

Luckily, he did not suffer from any burns. From that day on I hated every one of them. Sherita made us vow not to say anything about this day, but she forgot that her four-year-old sister Pauline was present when it happened.

A couple weeks later, Sherita, Pauline and I were sitting in their mother Esther’s room Pauline was chattering like any other four year old and told her mother what happened that day, not  knowing she was about to get her siblings into trouble. When Pauline finished telling the story, Esther got angry, looked at Sherita and said, “Y’all did what?” Sherita had the nerve to lie with a straight face and say I was the one who did the terrible thing to my own brother.

Before I could state my case, Esther had slapped the taste out of my mouth. I could only sit there holding my face in disbelief that this girl had just told a boldfaced lie on me and her mother believed her over me.

Another time Sherita was again playing with matches. I guess this crazy child just loved playing with fire. She was burning every dead hair she could find in an ashtray. Now if you have ever burned dead hair, you know it leaves behind a strange smell.

Again, no adult supervision in the house and Sherita was having her way as if she was at Burger King. Right after she went on her burning hair spree, guess who just happened to walk into the house but the adults.

Ethel was the first to come through the door and quickly realized that somebody had burned hair in the house. She asked Sherita and me who was burning hair and again this ugly girl lied and said I did it. My stupid self just stood there like a stick in the mud and didn’t even open my mouth to say anything. Ethel spanked my hand with a hard hairbrush and chastised me about playing with matches while Sherita just stood there smiling because she knew she had just gotten away with murder.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.

Passed Around By God But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 8

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At the tender age of seven years old, I had formed my own opinions of adults, “Do not trust them.” I was at the point in my life where I was heartbroken, my mother was locked away like a criminal and my siblings and I remained separated from each other. My mother had to hear in court about all the horrific trials that Raffeal and I had endured while in the custody of Rose. This devastating news set my mother’s recovery back, causing her to fall into depression fueled by guilt as if it was her fault we were mistreated. The caseworker managed to place my brother and me into another foster home, hoping we would regain a healthy balance of emotional stability. Yep, that did the trick!

Our new home was with an older woman who went by the name “Big Momma”. Big Momma lived in a bluish color one-level house on 58th and LaSalle. You could tell the place was somewhat old but it was decent I supposed. Our new foster mother was not big in size at all; she was somewhat tall, but not big. She had beautiful skin for her older age and beautiful, wavy, long black hair that she always wore in a ponytail. One of her eyelids was lower than the other which I learned later was due to a stroke she had once upon a time. She appeared to be a nice, caring and thoughtful person.

Finally, somebody was happy to see us and welcomed us into their home. Big Momma’s children and grandchildren were also there to greet us. They were kindly introducing themselves to my brother and me but deep down inside, I was not buying it. Two of her adult daughters, named Ethel and Esther, lived in this house. Ethel did not have any kids, but Esther had four. Their names were Melanie, Marcus, Sherita and Pauline. Now Ethel should have been called Big Momma because she was fat. Esther was not fat but if she ate a couple more pork chops, she’d have been well on her way. They gave us a tour of the place, which I must say was not something I would declare nice but it was bearable. I thought it was somewhat strange that Big Momma’s bedroom set was in the dining room.

Everybody was all smiles but me because I had too many things racing through my mind about this new foster parent, another new school and something that probably had never crossed my mind, new foster siblings. I already knew in my mind that this living arrangement was about to be very challenging.

Melanie was the oldest and seemed a bit strange to me. She did not talk much and was always off to herself. She did not cross my path and I tried not to cross hers. Marcus was the only boy among the siblings. He was short in height, brown complexioned, and hmmm… Moving forward, Sherita was what you would call a bona fide “tilt drill” meaning she had a cute shape with a big booty but an ugly face that only a mother could love. She was a light-skinned eight-year-old girl who looked like she was twelve. Sherita was not just ugly in the face but also in her ways. She was a sneaky, conniving bully. Lastly, the baby girl Pauline was a little cutie. Her head was big, but she was still cute and the same age as my baby brother, Raffeal. I shared a room with Melanie and Sherita, and Raffeal was in the room with Marcus.

Ms. Irving made sure that Big Momma had a clear understanding that the wound on my leg needed daily dressing changes. I must admit, my new foster mother was on point when it came to taking care of my wound. She did the daily dressing changes as ordered and made sure I kept my doctor’s follow-up appointments as scheduled. I hated those dressing changes because it was still painful to touch, especially when she had to pack the wet gauze into the wound. It took a strong stomach to tolerate the massive hole the dog had left in me, but she did it like a champ. For me it could be too much to handle. There were times when I thought my wound would never heal, but with the help of Big Momma that once golf-ball-sized hole eventually healed, although it left a permanent scar.

Though reluctant to feel comfortable, things seemed to be getting better for me and my brother. I was finishing the second grade at Jesse Sherwood Elementary at 245 West 57th Street, the foster mom was not torturing me and my mother was allowed more visitation rights. But not everything was what it seemed.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.

Passed Around By God But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 7

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You would think that this woman would consider how she was almost busted and would stop with the beatings. That would be too much like right for Rose. Believe me when I say that this person still beat us when we got home. She beat my brother so bad with the cord that she broke the blister that had formed on his burned thumb. The next thing I saw was blood gushing from his wound. How long were we going to have to live like this? So many times I wanted to tell the social worker when she came to do the evaluation, but every time I thought I had the courage to tell her, Rose would look at me with a nasty glare. Her white eyes bulged from her dark, black, evil face. She kept me scared and I never told.

It seems like the physical and emotional abuse became worse by the day. The beatings and lack of nutrition became a way of living for us. I remember one day when Rose was beating me on the kitchen floor with my hands tied behind my back to keep me from grabbing at the cord. While she was beating me, the German shepherd came into the kitchen and started barking and growling at me as if I was doing harm to his master. Then the dog began biting and tearing at my gown which eventually ripped. After that every time Rose beat me, if the dog was around he would attack me. The white hairy dog never joined in on these vicious attacks, only the German shepherd. I began to think that this dog was going to kill me one day and Rose probably would not care if it did.

Eventually the day came when the German shepherd went for the kill. Rose was once again beating me on the kitchen floor with my hands tied behind my back. Every strike of the cord by Rose was so painful that I truly believed my neighbors had to hear my cries for help. Then I started feeling a pain that was more than the cord. It was unbearable and excruciating, and it was from the sharp fangs of the shepherd’s mouth mauling at my leg. I did not know any more if my cries were from the pain of Rose or from the pain of that damned dog. I can remember crying, screaming and yelling, “Stop it!” Rose finally stopped but it was too late because her dog had mauled the middle of my left leg down to the bone. The wound the dog created on my leg was about the size of a golf ball. When Rose realized what he had done she panicked but not enough to take me to the hospital. She tried to doctor the wound herself. She placed gauze pads, wrapped it up and told me not to tell anyone what happened.

Here I was, a child with no one to come and rescue me from this mad woman. I did not know at this time anything about the Almighty God or the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I did not even know how to pray or what a prayer was for that matter, but I knew something had to give. Two or more days passed until my caseworker, Ms. Irving, came for a visit. She noticed me limping and asked me what was wrong with my leg. I would not say anything, so she checked for herself, noticed the bandage and removed it. She could not believe her eyes as she gasped with disgust. Though I was trembling with fear of Rose, I stood my ground and just told her everything that had happened. Ms. Irving took me and my brother to the emergency room at Wyler Children’s Hospital where the doctors and nurses took me into a room where I received multiple needles in my wound. There I was, screaming my life away again. The healthcare workers were saddened by what had happened to my leg. Glory is to God that my caseworker’s actions saved my brother and me from this horrible creature name Rose or I would most likely not have my left leg today.

My wound eventually healed over the course of months, but a permanent scar remains. I spent a few days in the hospital while Raffeal was temporarily at the DCFS facility. Although I never saw Rose or her dogs again, our physical and emotional scars were far from healing. We remained with no indication of when our mother was going to get custody of her children again, leaving us to wonder if that meant being placed in another home, with another abusive family.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.

Passed Around By God But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 6

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Christmas season came back around but was not going to be celebrated in her house. Not because she was a Jehovah’s Witness; she was not affiliated with them, but because she was a mean, old, fat, black-assed Grinch. Our Christmas presents came from the community who donated gifts to DCFS. Rose did not buy us a damn thing for Christmas. Raffeal and I were excited to see something we hadn’t seen in a while — toys. I was blessed with a doll and a youth cookware set in white that exactly resembled the well-known Conair cookware. The box the dishes came in would become a make-believe stove when you flipped it over on the other side. I would play with my dishes with excitement when I was able to play in my room until one day Rose had the audacity to tell me my cookware set looked real enough for her to really cook with them. She had that evil look in her eyes that was telling me to keep a close eye on my gift because they might just come up missing.

It was about this time when I thought enough was enough and decided I was going to break out from that hellhole. I had my great escape all planned. I was going to be out of that place! I got up one morning and Chicago, as usual, had another great snowfall. There was no school that day and I don’t even remember what story I gave Rose, but I knew I was leaving. I left the house and guess what? I did not include a destination in my plans. I had no idea where I was going or how to get to my family’s house. I just found myself sitting under someone’s stairwell thinking about how I could not leave Raffeal behind in the care of this woman. After a couple of hours of hanging out in the snow with no place to go, I had no choice but to go back to Rose’s house. When I returned to the house, Rose was waiting but I was caught by surprise when she did not have anything to say to me. I think she suspected what I was going to do and was trying to be cautious about her actions.

Her conscience only lasted for a day then she was right back at it with her endless rage. Rose was becoming more treacherous than ever before and really went off the deep end one day. In her bathroom, Rose had a maroon bathroom rug and dish set. She come stomping up the stairs early in the morning, waking us  from our sleep, yelling and asking who had put a crack in the bathroom drinking cup. I promise you we never touched anything in that bathroom unless I was cleaning it. We told her we didn’t touch that cup, but she kept yelling that we were lying and we were going to learn to keep our hands off her things. Raffeal was in tears because we knew what was about to happen to us. She called us downstairs into the kitchen where we got all of our beatings. I noticed there was no cord in Rose’s hands and she was standing by the stove looking like a bat out of hell. She turned on the stove and told us to come over to it. My heart dropped because I knew at that moment this woman was about to do the unthinkable to us. I was crying and shaking my head from side to side trying to plead with her, but she demanded I stand in front of that stove and without a care in her heart she grabbed my right hand and placed it over the open flame to burn as a punishment. I screamed for her to stop burning me and would have done anything she wanted me to do if she would just stop. I could hear her through the pain asking me, “You gonna keep your hands off my things?” I screamed “Yes” from the top of my lungs. Then the torture ended but not for long, because Raffeal was next in line. My brother began screaming before she even said his name. I began crying even more because I would have to witness Rose placing my baby brother’s hand over the open flame. In my mind I was crying “he’s just a baby”. My heart was aching more due to once again not being able to protect him from danger. When it was all over, Raffeal and I were lying on the floor trying to comfort each other. Rose just sent us back up to our room as if nothing had happened. She burned us really bad and to this day we still have those burn scars to prove it. Both my brother’s and my burns developed painful blisters. Raffeal had a huge blister on his left thumb that was ready to burst any minute.

A few days after we were given third-degree burns by the pyromaniac, Rose dropped us off at one of her friend’s house to watch us while she ran a couple of errands. Her friend’s name was Ethel and her favorite hobby was jigsaw puzzles. Ethel had a wall full of the puzzles that she placed into frames like artwork. I thought it was unique. She seemed nice but then again she was friends with Rose. She looked at us with a strange expression when Raffeal and I sat on her floor in a corner but she continued to work on her latest puzzle. She asked us a few questions and then noticed that my brother had a bandage wrapped around his left hand. She curiously asked what happened to his hand as I secretly tried to hide my hand from her. Without a fear in his heart he told her that Rose had burned his hand on the stove. She looked troubled from what she just heard and I was sitting in that corner sweating bullets and ready to faint because my baby brother just signed us up for our deathbeds. Rose returned from her errands and was ready to take us back to the plantation when her friend Ethel asked her with the “I know you didn’t” look on her face if she burned my brother’s hand. Rose looked back at Raffeal like a dragon ready to burn him up completely and said with a straight face, “No, I didn’t burn that boy.” Ethel replied, “I hope you ain’t burning these kids.” Rose got smart and turned the table on my brother, bullying him into saying he was telling a lie about her. Rose told us to come on and the trip back to her house was very quiet.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.

Passed Around By God But Not Passed Over By God-Chapter 5

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This abuse was taking such a toll on my baby brother that he began to wake up in the middle of the night to raid the refrigerator. It was heartbreaking when I would wake up and notice my brother not in his bed and I would go downstairs to find him in the refrigerator eating just ketchup from the bottle. Sometimes I would sit there and let him have his way, but there were times I had to stop him just to keep him from being caught in action by Rose.

One day she did catch him eating from the fridge and I can recall running down the stairs hearing my brother screaming and crying because she is beating him but all I could do was watch him suffer. I could not protect my baby brother from this hateful person. He went from being potty trained to becoming a bed wetter. I remember she would beat him for wetting the bed and even started putting those blue, old people diapers on my baby brother. She was a true bitch indeed.

The great escape from this woman was school; a place of peace for me. I was able to eat breakfast and lunch all by myself without those dogs, I received recognition for all my hard work from my teacher and nobody at the school was tearing my spirit apart.

Yes, I was safe and secure at this place, but my facial expressions must have said something different because my teacher would ask me at times if everything was okay with me. When I would reply that everything was good, she’d get this look of discernment as if she knew that I was lying to her. I did not have any visible show-and-tell signs for her to go any further because I never gave her any problems, my hair was always combed, I wore nice clothing and shoes and I maintained excellent grades.

Ms. Johnson really looked out for me at times, like the day my class went on a field trip and Rose would not make a bag lunch for me. She made a sandwich with apricot preserves and told me to eat that. I left the house, threw that mess in the garbage and decided I just would not eat lunch that day. Ms. Johnson noticed that I did not have any lunch and asked if I brought a bag lunch for the trip. Filled with shame and trying to keep tears falling from my eyes, I said no. She had that look on her face again and kindly asked the class if they minded sharing their lunches with me. I was so embarrassed but my classmates shared their food and didn’t even tease me for not having any food.

I dreaded when school let out and the weekend came because I would have to be at that place with that woman. The craziest part of this whole ordeal was that I would actually see my cousins on my way home from school. I didn’t know at first that we were attending the same school. These were my same cousins who used to live next door to my family when we lived in the basement on the west side. They noticed me first and would stop to talk with me. I was happy to see them but would hurry to brush them off because Rose did not live far from the school so I had a limited time to get home. Sometimes knowing my cousins went to the same school that I attended and that my uncle lived not too far from the prison that I was in leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to this day.

I can imagine them running home and telling their father, who is my uncle, that they saw me. If he would have just waited for me after school and checked up on his niece, I could have told him everything. I could have told him, but instead I was left to continue receiving these senseless violent acts from this person.

Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God  Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.