The Day Mama Went on Strike

Sunday mornings on the farm were busy. We were either planting or canning, cutting wood for the winter or cleaning up for the spring.

But not this Sunday. Things were quiet, and children notice when things are quiet. Where was Mama? We couldn’t find her. Someone said she was in the living room, but nobody ever went in the living room in our house unless there was company, and there was no company.

Mama’s in the living room? We peeked through the window. Mama was sitting on the couch with her arms folded and a strange look on her face. We went to Daddy and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Daddy said, “You boys go outside.”

“What’s wrong, Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“You’d better go outside—and whatever you do, don’t go in that living room!”

Dad was what we would call a chauvinist today. And Mama had always endured him with great grace.

“Well, what’s wrong with her, Daddy?”

“She stopped.”

“What do you mean, she stopped?”

“I think she’s on strike.”

Mama’s on strike! Wonder why? Wonder who caused it?

Mama was like a windup that never needed to be wound up. She was a dynamo of energy. When she was cooking and working, the house ran like clockwork! I was 14, my brother was 15, and at least three times a day we were really interested in Mama, because it was time to eat. When you’re 14, it’s almost always time to eat. So we were really worried.

I can’t remember exactly when she went back to work that Sunday. We never asked what caused her strike. The only thing we noticed was that in about a week Mama had a new dress. And in a few more days flowers were planted in front of the house. That’s right! My daddy planted something you couldn’t eat. He planted flowers. It had never happened before.

Word was that one of the boys had said to Mama in the hallway of the house that Sunday morning, “Pick up my socks!” And that broke something in Mama. Or maybe it fixed something. Because Mama noticed a flaw in her son that she had always tolerated in her husband. And she knew that she better nip this in the bud, or the first thing you’d know, she’d have three masters instead of one. So she went on strike.

Somewhere along the line she started hearing demands with no “thank you’s.” Only complaints, and no gratitude; only orders, and no cooperation. And she just quit. Just like many people who used to serve the church. They stopped hearing joy. They stopped hearing compliments. They stopped hearing welcomes. And they just quit, or they just drifted away.

I have an idea. How about the stewardship of compliments? That’s right. Make yourself a committee of one to see that the people who do an act of kindness or assume leadership or do a job hear they are appreciated. I have never heard of a church or a home where there were too many compliments, have you?

“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24, RSV).

By Mitchell F. Henson

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