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Grit introduced the world to a little girl

The heading for this week's column comes from a story I wrote for Grit, the national, bi-weekly newspaper that champions "American Life and Traditions" (according to the logo in the paper's title).

The story, with two pictures of us happily reading a copy of the paper, appeared in the January 10, 1999 issue. I enjoyed writing it and we enjoyed seeing it in print. Wives, and women in general, are too seldom over-looked for their behind-the-scenes achievements. Where would we men be if it were not for good mothers, good wives and good daughters? We wouldn't be, period. This week I want to share some of the contributions of one little country girl to my life.

As I laid a copy of Grit on the dining room table, my wife Jody exclaimed, "That's the first magazine I ever read!"

My friend, Joe Swan in California, had sent a copy because there was an article in that particular issue he wanted me to read.

Jody Long was only 9 and in the third grade at Snow Hill, a small community about 5 miles north of the Collin County town of Farmersville, Texas. Farmersville has a population of just over 2,000 and is located some 40 miles northeast of Dallas. Most people only know Farmersville as the home of World War II hero Audie Murphy. It was also the home of two of Texas Baptist's most beloved preacher-singer teams, B.O. and Dick Baker.

Snow Hill today is hardly more than a Baptist church in a wide spot in the road. The school is gone as are the few stores frequented by the former residents of Snow Hill.

Every two weeks the traveling library came to Snow Hill and what caught Jody's eye was Grit. She wonders today where she got the nickel to pay for it, but she never missed an issue in those formative years.

Within Grit's pages, she read stories of a world beyond picking cotton in the summer and walking dusty roads to school the rest of the year. There she caught her first glimpse of a larger America and world.

When her mother got a job in the candy factory, Jody and LaVerne, her older sister, moved with their mother to Farmersville. Jody worked at the soda fountain in Farmersville's only Drug Store through her high school years. She was a cheerleader for the Farmersville Farmers. She was a leader in religious activities at school. She was the first person in her extended family to attend college. Her pastor was a graduate of Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and suggested she attend there.

I am especially glad Jody made it to Howard Payne, for that's where we met in 1947 and were married in 1950. Jody added a college degree to her Bible and Grit knowledge to become a wonderful pastor's wife, mother of two adopted girls and a missionary to Taiwan and Hong Kong and my colleague in opening relations for Southern Baptists with the Christian churches of the China mainland. Thank you Grit for giving my wife such a great start in life.

The "thank you Grit . . ." sentence which ended this tale is probably what sold the editors on the story. But the real "thank you" is for her hard-working mother and the God who brought us together. Oh, there is one other thing about the story that you probably already know -- Grit no longer sells for a nickel.


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