Being different can be a blessing

  • Friday, December 20, 2013

“And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord.”  
St. Luke 1:46

Hello.  I pray that you are in the best of spirits for this Holy season, and that you are looking forward to a day filled with thanksgiving for the birth celebration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let those of us who are merry pray for those who are downhearted and despondent.  Let us direct them to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3: 5 and 6) Let us also lend a helping hand if it is in our power to do so.
Robert J. Smalls
A few articles ago, I wrote about a new business venture that was being entered into by Mrs. Earlene Hilton and was taking roots here in Georgetown.  In that article there was a gentleman by the name of Robert Smalls that I promised to tell you about at a later time:
Smalls is the grandson of the famous Robert J. Smalls, better known as “The Boat Thief” and was written about in a book by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  Smalls was very proud of his grandfather, and I promised him that I would relate some of the grandfather's story to my readers.  I hope that you, along with Smalls, will enjoy reading this version of this unique man.
Robert J. Smalls was born April 5, 1839 in Beaufort.  He was an enslaved African American, who during and after the American Civil War, became a ship's pilot, sea captain, and politician.  He freed himself, his crew and their families from slavery in 1862, by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, the CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, and sailing it to freedom beyond the Federal blockade.  His example and persuasion helped convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army.
After the American Civil War, he became a politician, elected to the South Carolina legislature and the United States House of Representatives.  As a politician, he authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, and funded the Republican Party of South Carolina.  He is notable as the last Republican to represent South Carolina's 5th congressional district until 2010.
In the fall of 1861, Smalls was assigned to steer the CSS Planter, an armed Confederate military transport.  On May 12, 1862, the Planter's three white officers decided to spend the night ashore.  About 3 a.m. on the 13th, Smalls and seven of the eight enslaved crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels that formed the blockade, as they had earlier planned.  Smalls, dressed in the captain's uniform, and with a straw hat similar to that of the white captain, backed the Planter out of what was then known as the Southern Wharf.  He stopped at a nearby wharf to pick up his family and the relatives of other crewmen who had been concealed there for some time.  With his crew and the women and children, Smalls made the daring escape.  Smalls died in Feb. 1915 after a brilliant and rewarding career.
The story is so fascinating that according to grandson Robert, the late Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a book about Smalls in 2008 entitled “Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief.”  It is a picture book illustrated by Patrick Faricy.  For more information on Robert J. Smalls, you may go to Wikipedia.com.  
I want to thank Smalls for bringing this story of his grandfather to the attention of myself and others. I have been proud to share some of it with you. Smalls is also the proud father of noted bestselling author, Treasure Blue.
Greater St. Stephen AME Church
Rev. and Mrs. Carl Anderson and the Women's ministry of Greater St. Stephen AME Church, cordially invite you to their Christmas reception on Sunday, Dec. 22  from noon to 2 p.m.  The celebration will be held in the multipurpose room of the church.  They would like for everyone that can, to join them as they celebrate the season through fellowship and an array of Christmas displays.  Refreshments will be served.  Sisters Bernadine Keith and Connie Jones are the co- chairpersons, and Rev. Carl L. Anderson is the pastor.
Bob May's wife, Evelyn lay dying of cancer and his four year old daughter sat sobbing on his lap.  
Bob finished college and married his loving wife, and was able to get a job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression, then they were blessed with his little girl.
All this was short lived.  Evelyn's sickness had stripped them of all their savings, and now he and his little girl were forced to live in a two room apartment in the Chicago slums.  Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.  Bob couldn't afford to buy a gift for his little girl, but he was determined to make her a storybook.  The character he created was a misfit outcast like he thought he was.  The story goes on like a fairy tale:  The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little story book and offered Bob a nominal fee to purchase the rights to the book.  Wards went on to print the book and distribute them to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.  By December, 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies.  That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.  The book became a best seller.  Many toy and marketing deals followed, and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family became wealthy from a story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.  Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph.  Some popular vocalists turned it down, but the singing cowboy, Gene Autry, recorded the song, and it sold more copies than any other Christmas song, except White Christmas.  
The gift that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago, kept returning to bless him over and over again, and Bob May learned a lesson, just like his friend, Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad after all.  In fact, being different, can be a blessing.
Hope you enjoyed the story, compliments of my friend, Ms. Annie Lloyd, and most of all, I hope that as you pray for the sick and shut-in, the bereaved, the homeless and the hungry, all of the children and their futures, and for each other, that you will have the best of a blessed Holy season, and all of the joys of the coming New Year.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless us everyone.

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