Food For Thought

Born To Make A Difference

by Henrietta Jolly Coleman 

Secretary Treasurer Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative

Professor Emeritus, Southside Virginia Community College  


Let Us Honor Rosa Parks by Nurturing Freedom

Two-thousand five presented many events that will be remembered by all Americans as significantly historic: The large number of devastating hurricanes, the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , and a burgeoning federal deficit. We are concerned with Social Security and health-care reforms, changes in the educational system (the Standards of Learning and No Child Left Behind), the costs of fuel, loss of jobs and pension benefits — the list goes on and on!

The events reported on the evening news and in daily newspapers can make us shake our heads and wonder what is going to happen next. We face the daily challenges of raising a family, earning a living, and dealing with personal issues, all of which can bring on anxiety. Those of us who have faith know that there is a remedy. We understand to be “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let [our] requests be made known, and the peace of [our] Creator which surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds.”

It is my belief that no other event of the year will be more remembered than the passing of the mother of the civil rights movement, Mrs. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks. Mrs. Parks died on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92. It has been 50 years since Mrs. Parks first made history. In 1955, the 42-year-old seamstress and NAACP activist declined to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery , Ala. When she refused to go to the back of the bus that cold December afternoon, she spoke for all Americans in defiance of a system of racial oppression that every day robbed them of their citizenship and dignity.

Others have been admired for their leadership, charisma, and bravery; however, Mrs. Parks inspired widespread reverence for her quiet strength and understated grace. Her courage changed the course of American history.

Tens of thousands paid their respects as she laid in honor at St. Paul AME Church in Montgomery , Ala. , in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, (where she was the first woman and second African American to do so); and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit , Mich. A marathon of speakers offered remarks about her impact on the nation and people. It seemed fitting that in death, just as in life, Mrs. Parks would be the one to bring the nation’s people together.

Mrs. Parks showed courage and determination in taking a stand for what she believed was right. Her act of bravery has made a difference. Probably not even realizing the impact it would have on her fellow man, she made a decision with far-reaching effects. Opportunities and doors have been opened because of her.

At Mrs. Parks’ memorial service, Oprah Winfrey, famous talk-show host, and Condoleezza Rice , U.S. secretary of state, gave her credit for their successes and the positions they hold today. Elaine Jones, the first female director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Educational Fund, Inc., also credited her and thanked her for the sacrifice she made that gave Jones the opportunity to serve in a capacity that gives assistance to those in need of legal counsel in our nation. There are countless others who have expressed their thanks to a wonderful lady who cared and proved her love for all.

There are numerous individuals who have given and still give their talents to support the cause of peace and freedom! Some have made great contributions and will never receive the notoriety that Mrs. Parks received, but have the satisfaction that they have followed their hearts and have made a difference. Positive living is a key to enjoying a peaceful, healthy life. When we serve, we find joy and that becomes our reward — knowing that we have demonstrated love and have helped someone to enjoy a better life. The struggle continues. We must dedicate our lives to causes that will enrich the lives of others. We must be mentors for our youth, volunteer as tutors, and by example, encourage them to participate in the democratic process. We must set lofty examples for them, for we realize that they are our future leaders.

We mourned Mrs. Parks; we applauded her — people from all walks of life — the rich, the not-so-rich, the famous, and the not-so-famous. But have we asked ourselves what can we do to honor her legacy? Mrs. Parks has done her part to make the world a better place. Her courage and humility inspired thousands to say, “If she can do it, then surely so can I.” It is our time to make a difference. We can stop ruining today by worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, and say: “This is the day the Lord has made. I choose to rejoice and be glad in it. I am going to make a difference. I am going to be a servant to my fellow man and to the world.”

Like Mrs. Parks, we must nurture the seed of freedom. Her life and her death call us to the task of continuing the unfinished freedom movement and ensuring that she did not live, and struggle, in vain.

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded to the author.




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