You see, mom just turned 86 and so “the boys” decided it would be a good time to talk about a will, living will, roots, etc. We told mom to write down some of the stuff about her “raising” and her siblings. In the process of doing so, mom wrote this: “Born November 15, 1926 in Ethelsville, Alabama.” When I read that I went, “Huh?”
I had always assumed that mom was born and raised in Kennedy because no one had ever told me differently. My shock turned to curiosity which led to a Google search. What I found out about my mom’s home town tickled the heck out of me.
According to the 2000 census (they did not participate in the 2010 census, perhaps thinking it to be none of the government’s business), the town of Ethelsville has 81 people. Of those 81, five are under 18, so there is some hope. The total area of the town is 0.6 miles. Thirty-three percent of the 81 live under the poverty line.
What really cracked me up were these lines from the Wikipedia article: “The town was named after Ethel Hancock, a one-time resident and staple of the community. She was famous for being Mr. Hancock’s daughter.”
How about that for a heritage?
“Hey Ethel, what are you famous for?”
What does that say about Mr. Hancock? It says he cast a wide shadow for his daughter, Ethel, to the point that 100 or 200 years later, she was still only known as her dad’s daughter.
Expectation can be a heavy burden to carry day after day. I am, of course, just guessing, but what I’m guessing is that the pressure on young Ethel was pretty great, being “Mr. Hancock’s daughter.”
Expectation can be a blessing or a curse, but my hunch is that for Ethel it was a blessing. When folk expect you to grow up and be something, most will actually “grow up and be something.”
Though high expectation can be a burden, I would gladly live with high expectations than low ones. If you grow up with folk expecting very little from you, than that is what they will probably get.
So, why is it that in the short history of that little town, she gets only scant recognition? Though a “staple of the community,” she plays second fiddle to her dad. Is it because she was a she and he was a he? Maybe in that day, as the history of that town and most towns were written, it was the males who got the headlines and credit. The females had to take a backseat in history and in practice.
Of course, when the town fathers (and mothers) got together to name their little community, they named it after her: Ethelsville. “You go, girl!”
Those of us who profess the name of Christ also have very high expectations placed on us. Is that a burden or a joy? How will we be remembered?
Davis is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Carrollton.