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Pearls of wisdom from a 99-year-old jewel

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Fans continue to celebrate the Atlanta Braves World Series championship.  

Thousands of fans gathered on Friday along the parade route as the city of Atlanta honored their success.

At least nine items were sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York at MLB’s request to commemorate Atlanta’s unlikely finish, including Joc Pederson’s pearls.

Pederson created a social media sensation when he started wearing a string of pearls back in September. His reason? He just liked them. So did the fans, who also started wearing pearls. And now Cooperstown wants to display them.

In our church, another celebration took place the day after the Braves parade. We gathered to honor a jewel of our own, 99-year-old Virginia Alexander, one of several nonagenarians in the McDonough Road Baptist family. Her family wanted to throw a birthday party, but Virginia turned it into a celebration of a blessed life.

“God has been so good to me,” she said. “I don’t want this party to be about my birthday. I want it to be about God’s blessings.”

Virginia, born October 22 in Pinehurst, Georgia, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. She was dating another boy when her friend talked her into going on a double date with an Air Force man from Maxwell Air Force Base. She went on this blind date with Woody Alexander while wearing her boyfriend’s class ring.

Woody kept calling her and eventually she broke her boyfriend’s heart because she fell in love with Woody.

He told me, “You can’t keep swinging on my gate. Either get off or marry me.” She married him at 17 and they had a sixty-year run.

They raised three children while often moving because of Woody’s government job. They eventually settled in Fayetteville, where they got involved in church and community. Several years ago, Virginia began knitting hats for the newborns at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. There’s no telling how many babies wore Virginia’s hats. She continues to knit “dish rags” to give away.

Last Spring, she made the bold decision to leave her home and move into Heartis Assisted Living in Fayetteville. She felt it was time to move, and she’s chosen to have a great attitude about this major transition.

“God put me here. I walked away from home with a bag of clothes and a few pieces of furniture, and I haven’t been back. This is where I should be.”

Virginia didn’t know a soul when she moved in, and now her room is Grand Central Station, she said.

Recently, she wrote down her keys to a long, blessed life:

First, don’t operate without God. “We need God,” she said. “God holds my hand.”

Second, make a lot of close friends. “You can’t have too many friends. I consider everyone I meet a new friend. Once you get into my life, you’re stuck!”

Third, speak to everybody. “People are lonely and need someone to speak to them. Everywhere I go, I start a conversation.”

And people are drawn to Virginia. “I’m amazed at what happens when I go out. I was at Publix, and a little lady began to talk to me and told me all about herself and her problems. People are hurting.”

Fourth, love people. “I’ve just loved people and I want them to love me. You don’t have to like them, but you have to love them.”

Fifth, let go of grudges. “It’s hard not to hold grudges, but you feel better when you let them go.”

Sixth, if you think of someone, call them. “During the day, if someone’s name pops into my mind, that’s God’s way of telling me to check on them.”

Seventh, have fun. “Try to have fun in everything you do.”

Eighth, laugh a lot. “I’ve made so many mistakes I have to laugh. If I didn’t laugh and keep going, I wouldn’t make it.”

Ninth, don’t worry. “When you get worried, turn it over to God.”

What pearls of wisdom would she like to pass along?

          *Place the Lord first in every situation.

          *Honor your parents.

          *Respect old people. “They’re smarter than you think! I’m sharp as a tack!”

          *Love everyone.

          *Realize marriage is not a bed of roses. “Keep hanging in there, keep forgiving, and keep loving even when things are tough.”

          *Get involved in church. “You need the companionship and fellowship you get in church. You can’t get this quality of fellowship anywhere else.”
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David Chancey is pastor of McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville. Reach him at davidlchancey@gmail.com.

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