The Sweetest Lemonade

October 16, 2007
By Courtney Hargus, Springfield, MO

Some of us make decisions and our consequences determine whether the lemonade we make with our life is sour or sweet. Sometimes life chooses to throw us curve balls and that we have to deal with. How we deal with these curve balls determines the outcome.
My mom is a great example of someone who was given a life in which she had to deal with the consequences without making the bad choices. She was thrown a curve ball and had decided how she was going to deal with it. Both she and her brother took the highroad to make something out of themselves.

At the age of four my mom’s parents became missionaries. Even at such a young age, she cognitively remembers this experience. It was their lifetime goal and the desire of their hearts. Once residing in Colorado, they were now living in West Africa. My grandparents had a house in Sierra Leone, but while they were reaching out to other people, my mom and uncle were sent to a boarding school in Sierra Leone at the ages of six and eight years old and later to another one in Ivory Coast. If you have ever been to Sierra Leone, you would know that it is a difficult country to live in. Living in Sierra Leone is a bit like living in the boonies. Food and water are not easy to come by. The buildings are not as nice and they have less money.

My mom and uncle only lived with their parents for three months out of the year and stayed at boarding school for the remainder of the year. They only had each other to depend on. My mom tells me how it was hard living in boarding school and in a country where everyone spoke a different language. Getting adapted to this type of environment was not an easy task. My grandma had to cut my mom's long hair since it was easier to manage when it was short. She would soon have to learn how to take care of herself while she was at boarding school, and having shorter hair made this easier for her. Not only was it hard living in a boarding school because you had to completely take care of yourself, but also because you were constantly around other people. Never was there a moment where she would be able to have some privacy. Some of my friends that attend college are constantly complaining to me about how annoying their roommates are. Roommates only last about few years; my mom’s roommates were languid, lasting thirteen years. That puts into perspective how much harder living away from your family can be.

My mom said the hardest element was how much they tried to convert her to their denomination. They persecuted her by saying her beliefs were wrong. She had to learn how to defend her beliefs. There was a teacher who would ridicule my mom for her beliefs. She found perseverance through knowing she had a brother who was going through the same thing, and he knew that there was a God who did care about what she was going through. During those years she explains how important her brother was to her. Even though everyone there was criticizing them for their belief, they still had each other. They had to rely on each other for their strength to get through tough times.

Going back home should have been an exciting time for my mom and her brother, but it became one of the hardest for them. Their parents were so worried about them losing or changing their faith while in school that they worked hard to teach them everything they had missed out on during the year. Not to mention, my grandpa would work extremely hard to teach them them the way people acted in American. Their parents were determined that when they went back to American that they would act like they were Americans. Every day they worked on their posture, their eating habits, and saying “Yes, please” and “Thank you.” My mom and her brother could understand their reasoning, but it was hard for them to completely understand why they would send off their only children and then decide to teach them for three months every year.
Once in America, she attended Hillcrest High School for one year and her brother attended Evangel University on a soccer scholarship. My mom never felt like she fit in during high school. She had a job and had to support herself completely while her parents were far away in Africa. You could say that she had an affinity for working, but not by choice. She was obligated to pay for a car, gas, an apartment, and any other expenses she may have. She remembers the days when she would live on bread and peanut butter because that was all she could afford. All the demanding stress was cumbersome.

Of course, her parents were just doing what they thought was right, but this made the lives of their children difficult. They had to grow up faster than most kids have to and, never once have they experienced the pleasure of being treated like a deity. She was never given the chance to enjoy her childhood. She missed out on a huge chunk of her life that she will not be able to get back. Spending time with her family is how she makes up for lost time.
It is hard for my mom when my dad can drive around town and show my sister and I all the places he attended school. We can see the house where he grew up and see where his first job was. We can see where he went to pre-school and we know most of the people he grew up with. There is a war going on in Sierra Leone right now and rebels have destroyed all the schools and churches my grandparents built; the building my mom grew up in was burned down. The only time my sister and I get to see the people my mom grew up with are when they send us videos telling us to pray for them because times are hard for them.

Despite her childhood and all the rough times she has experienced, she knew she was in control of her outcome and took full advantage of that. She married a guy she met at Hillcrest High school, who was the basketball star. That special guy turns out to be my loving dad. They have been married for twenty-eight years. Even though she had an unstable childhood, they have a stable marriage. Without being able to afford college on her minimum wage job she had, she has a great job at the General Council Credit Union. At our church, she knows more people than I can name. Having a hard childhood encouraged her to give her children the best childhood they could think of, and she has definitely succeeded. She took the sourest lemons and made the sweetest lemonade with them.

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