Generosity Archive

Auntee Gertrude

Posted November 17, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

IMG_3040Deep in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, a house sits alone in a cove. If the walls could talk, you’d hear laughter, tears, secrets shared in days gone by. You’d hear the heart’s cry of twenty-seven children, who have long since grown up and started lives of their own. And you wouldn’t help but hear the affirmation and expressions of love from Auntee Gertrude.

Gertrude and her husband Chester, have provided extended foster care for almost three dozen children who had no place to go and no one to take care of them. It all started with a frantic knock on their door on a rainy night. The sheriff showed up with an  abandoned child and no place to take them. The parents were missing and someone had to care for the children.

They said yes… temporarily… and it set in place a lifetime of purpose. Together they provided not only the basic needs for the Homeless Young Boy Holding a Signchildren entrusted to their care, they raised them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They all grew up to be amazing men and women. Every single one is successful in his or her own way.

We sat over coffee and I asked Gertrude why they did it. “Well, when a need shows up on your front door step, there’s overwhelming evidence that you’re the one God chose to meet it.” 

A simple woman by design, Auntee Gertrude lives her life for others. She could not sit still without asking me if I wanted more coffee. And we were at a Travel Plaza, not her home! As I let the java grow cold, I drank in all the love, caring, and genuine happiness that flowed from this lady’s heart. Interestingly, she didn’t want to talk about it. She’d much rather discuss the amazing and unusual sunrise God gave us that morning.

But I finally did pry some information out of her. For decades, every time there was a knock on the door, Gertrude would yell out the back door to Chester’s wood shop, “Better get another bed ready. Somebody’s coming!” They were always needing room for one more child. Chester would build and Auntee Gertrude would sew, knit and cook. 

When I asked this couple what was the greatest blessing they’d received from their lifetime of caring for underprivileged children. She became quiet for a moment as if deep in thought. Then with conviction she said, “We were able to teach these children how to grow up to be responsible adults. And patriotic Americans. That’s something you just don’t find too much any more.”

IMG_3021Auntee Gertrude and Chester are heroes. They not only helped these children in a desperate time of need, they gave them the heartbeat of America. And they introduced them to Jesus. 

No, I don’t think it gets much better than that. 

Gertrude and Chester shuffled off into anonymity once more. To see the elderly couple, you’d never know who they are or what great things they have accomplished. As they drove away in their old Buick, it made me wonder how many amazing heroes I pass by on a daily basis without realizing it.

That old song, “Stop and Smell the Roses” fluttered in my head. I was once again reminded it is the people-the heartbeat of America- that provide the wonderful fragrance in this amazing nation we call home. 

I salute you, Auntee Gertrude and Chester.


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The Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well

Posted September 9, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Help Henderson4They lined up as far as the eye could see, the sun over the stadium casting the all-telling shadow over them as they waited. Inside the stadium, volunteers unpacked boxes, set up tables, cooked food. In just moments, lives would change.

For the workers, it seems like not enough time to get things ready. For those who waited outside, the moment would not come soon enough. 

I walked slowly through the crowd with the other workers, praying for and pronouncing blessings on these citizens of Henderson, Kentucky. An elderly man saw my knee brace and said he needed one too. He raised his shorts and showed me scars from surgeries. Had mine fit his enormous leg, I would have given to him. 

Mothers with children asked that we pray that their daddies would be released from jail. They were too young to understand he’d Help Henderson T-shirtcommitted a crime. They just felt the gigantic hole it left in their hearts since daddy left. A lone child stood in the wings listening intently as we prayed for a particular family. As the team walked away, she tugged at Melody’s hand and quietly asked if she could pray for her daddy. He was in jail, too.

Those in need lined up in complete orderly fashion, patiently waiting for their turn at each booth. No pushing. No shoving. Just grateful realization that people in this town understand they have needs and are doing something about it.

Mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters walked together, hoping against hope that their lives would improve today. Wide-eyed children took balloons and candy from agency tables as moms filled out applications to receive aid and Help Henderson8other assistance. One end zone was filled with clothing, shoes, books and toys donated and manned by Goodwill Industries.

The other end held a prayer tent, filled with volunteers ready to intercede for the needs of others. Between helping with the event, I walked around observing how this town takes care of its own. Rich, poor, young, old all together in one place working together to make life better. 

As a praise band sang and prayer blasted from the stadium PA system, I knew in no uncertain terms that the heartbeat of America is alive and well. God is still on the throne in Kentucky and hearts are still tender toward Help Henderson6neighbors in need. 

I left there and went to a block party in an underprivileged neighborhood. We cooked hotdogs, hamburgers and offered fun and
fellowship to people who just don’t normally receive and outreached hand… well, except in Henderson. Kids played on inflatable obstacle courses while others looked on, eyes gleaming as they anticipated their turn. 

They were grateful. Joyful. Filled with wonder that total strangers would reach out to them where they live Block Partyand extend the right hand of fellowship. It was a good day Saturday in Western Kentucky. God is very much present on the Ohio River and the heartbeat of America is alive and well. 

There’s a lot of gold in Henderson, Kentucky. It fills the hearts of the kind people here and they can’t rest until they use that prosperity to help their fellow citizens who are in need. Thank you for reminding me how people should act.



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Blessings Out of Nowhere, USA

Posted July 23, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Camping in the Pavilion of  North Glencoe Baptist Church

Camping in the Pavilion of North Glencoe Baptist Church

Sunday night was quite an exciting adventure. I got caught in a very large and powerful thunderstorm. The good news was that I found refuge in McDonald’s. The bad news was that would close at 11pm. 

In the middle of nowhere. In the middle of the night. In the middle of a blinding rainstorm. I think that sums up the three strike rule. 

A call to the police department just confirmed they would not allow me to pitch my tent anywhere. So, I did what any female traveling alone in a strange town on a bicycle on a stormy Sunday night would do. I prayed.

I finally saw a nice looking elderly lady come in with what appeared to be her great grandson. I asked her if she was coming from church. She proudly said she was. I explained my dilemma and she referred me to a Baptist church a half mile up the hill. I packed my stuff back onto my bike, put on my rain gear and turned on my lights. 

I prayed my way to the church. Thank God there were still people there. The pastor said I could pitch my tent but suggested I walk my

Something will always get in your way. Relax and enjoy it!

Something will always get in your way. Relax and enjoy it!

bike about a half mile up a trail to their recreation facility where they had pavilions. I could pitch my ten under one of those and stay dry for the night.

The Lord faithfully provided!

The next morning, I packed up my gear and was on my way. My next destination was Huntsville, AL. Though I had no plans to go to Huntsville at the beginning of the trip, for whatever reason, the Lord was sending me back to my roots. I was born in Huntsville. That’s where my parents were laid to rest. I haven’t been back to Huntsville since 1996. 

And, no worries. The only thing standing in my way was 75 miles and two mountains: Sand Mountain and Montosano. No big deal, right? After getting a stern warning about hit and run drivers in Boaz from a police Leutinant in Atalla, I headed north, toward the brick wall that awaited. 

Right before the ascent of Sand Mountain, I stopped to pray and mentally prepare for the hardest ride of my trip, a car pulled over in front of me. A man got out, walked back to my car and said, “D0 you know what’s up ahead, lady?”

Unfortunately, I did.

At first he offered to take me over the mountain. I was grateful. We loaded my gear in his car and Dakota onto his bike rack. When he found out I was headed to Huntsville, he insisted on taking me the entire way: 60 miles one way. Apparently, the storms were moving in rapidly from the northwest, right where I was headed.

Author Suzy Parish and family at Rosie's Cantina. Pure Heaven!

Author Suzy Parish and family at Rosie’s Cantina. Pure Heaven!

He preached to me the entire trip, except for the few moments it took to buy my lunch. He gave me a can of maze to protect myself. I accidentally left it in his car, along with my cycling gloves but it didn’t matter. I have warring angels surrounding me anyway.

Right in the middle of nowhere when I least expected for anyone to reach out and help, God brought them right to me. As I write this, I’m sitting comfortably in the home of a writer friend in Huntsville. We had dinner at Rosie’s Cantina, an amazing Mexican restaurant. Tomorrow, we will visit my parent’s graves. 

I never thought I’d head this way. It started in Atlanta, where I started elementary school and continues now in my hometown of Huntsville, AL. Right in the middle of nowhere, every bit of help I could ever ask for just showed up on a US highway. It showed up on a dark, stormy Sunday night and pointed the way to a dry pavilion. 

If you’re in the middle of nowhere right now, look around. God’s blessings are there. And, they are more than you can ever think, hope or imagine. 

I’ve learned to trust God to a greater degree than I have ever trusted before. God is great and mighty… even in Nowhere, USA.

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Today, I Choose to Be Generous

Posted February 2, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Give and it shall be given unto you.

That’s what the Good Book says. But, is it true? Well, let me ask you a question. Honestly, would it matter? When you give of yourself, your treasure, your time and your gifts you assume your natural role in the universe. But, indeed it is true.

I know someone who is married with two children. They motto has always been, “Us four and no more.” How sad, not only because they would have more today than they do, but they have missed out on one of the greatest blessings of a lifetime.

You may be thinking, “Reba, I would love to give but I have no money. In fact, I’m so poor I can’t rub two nickels together.” I get it. I really do. I’ve faced times when there is too much month at the end of the money. But that promise doesn’t only apply to money.

You can generously give a lot of things. Here are a few:

  • Your time. That’s huge. There are endless numbers of people who need what your time can provide. Doesn’t cost a penny.
  • Your talent. In December, I gave my truck driving skill to a friend who was relocating by U-Haul. I have a lot of experience in driving large vehicles.
  • Your treasure. You may not have money but you may have a notebook, dish, a towel or broom that someone else needs.


Giving is not only an act. It’s a lifestyle.

My friends know that if there is any way I can help them I will. And, if I have anything they need, they know they can have it.

I know people who sell things on E-bay and Craigs List. And they make a lot of money doing it. I’ve sold on them in the past but I have to admit, I’m not good at it. Why? Because, if I have something that you need, I want to give it to you.

I advertised a bicycle hard shell shipping case once. Someone took the bait and wanted to buy it. When he came to check it out and made the decision to buy, I gifted it to him. It was just cluttering up my garage and he was getting ready to travel abroad.

Personally, I got more of a blessing giving it to him than I would have spending the money. Why? Giving is my lifestyle. I’ll never be a millionaire because I give it away, but I’m probably about the most wealthy woman you’ll ever know.


I give freely and generously. It makes my heart sing to know I blessed others. I promise it will make you feel that way as well. Would you be willing to choose today to be generous?

Do you have a story to share about giving? Did the blessing come back or did giving leave you empty? I really want to know. Please share it here. 

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