I stood in line with other drivers to be assigned a dock to unload my goods when an older black woman sauntered up. When I spoke, a broad smile revealed the absence of all her teeth. Her wild hair was concealed in a well-worn bandana.
She joined in the conversation I was having with another driver about why we do what we do. Edna said she did it “for my babies”.
Once we were docked, she stopped approached my truck and began telling me her story. She told me that trucking or turning tricks were the only two things she could do to earn money. She’d been illiterate and her husband was shot and killed, leaving her with three small children to take care of. She could never give up on life. Edna didn’t want to risk jail so she had someone help her memorize the words on the road signs. She collected bottles and cans on the side of the road and sold them to get the money to get her driver license.
She begged a company to train her how to drive a truck and seeing the determination in her eyes, they reluctantly agreed. That was over twenty years ago. Today, Edna still drives a truck. Her three kids are all grown and each of them went to college, got degrees and are living a wonderful, successful life.
Edna’s children beg her to give up driving. They went together and bought her a home. They’d even pay her living expenses. And yet she keeps driving. I asked her why. She said, I owe this company my life and my baby’s lives. It’s the least I can do. I’ll keep driving until they don’t need me anymore or until I can’t press in a clutch, whichever comes first.
She taught herself to read and devours at least two books a week these days. When her children graduated high school, Edna earned her GED. Her children all came to her graduation ceremony at the community center in the neighborhood where they all grew up.
Edna allowed me to take her picture but only from behind. She is modest and is not given to fanfare. This lady is a hero. When standing at a crossroads with hungry mouths to feed, Edna chose to do the right thing and, by her own report, God rewarded her for it.
When I drove away from that early morning delivery in New Jersey, I felt rich. Like I had taken a dip in warm, liquid gold. I was privileged to have been in the presence of a woman of such determination and will never forget Edna.
A woman of courage.
A woman of conviction.
A lady who refused to give up on life.