If God Helped Her
He Will Do No Less For Us!
In very typical fashion, Penny Campbell Hamilton couldn’t imagine why in the world I would want to interview her when I sent the first message, “Would you let me do an article on you?”
And to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that I could have put my reasons into words at that point myself other than to say that Penny interests me. I’ve watched her for years, and I know that life hasn’t always been the proverbial bowl of cherries for her family and yet, Penny walks through life with a smile on her face and a laugh bubbling just under the surface, ready to spring out at any given time, and I wonder about that….how she does it, I mean.
So I asked her. “Do you even understand what an encourager you are?”
“I don’t think I used to, but then we took some tests at church to discover our gifts. Mine came out as having the gift of being an encourager. And then, I began to look back. I think as we age, we can look back on our lives and see things more clearly.
“As I walked back through the past, I saw that my mother really helped her children develop this gift. When Fred Curry was sick in the hospital for days, Mom would send me with a newspaper, telling me to visit with him because he needed a visitor.
“Mom did this for many patients that she thought needed a visitor. Obviously, I was young and thought I was just being nice, but in looking back, I can see that I was learning to encourage others with every visit.
“I truly believe that whatever we go through in life makes us who we are, who we become. For me, it was a lot of tragedy.”
And then, Penny the encourager…my encourager…began to tell me her story. The story of the journey that molded her into the person that she is today, and it may just be one of the hardest roads I’ve ever known anyone to have to walk. It started out like so many of these things do, when a good man, a man Penny can still remember as a loving daddy, a Sunday School teacher, a baseball coach…began to drink.
“My dad wasn’t always an alcoholic, but he became one. This affected all of us so much.”
Apparently, Mr. Campbell grew worse and worse in his alcoholism. As is often the case, he became more and more abusive to his family, especially to Mrs. Campbell and Penny’s oldest brother, the one she still refers to as Bubba, even evicting him from the house and then hunting him with a shotgun for days before going off on another tangent. Obviously, this wasn’t the real J.W. Campbell, a man who loved and took care of his family. It was the alcohol but, of course, that didn’t make it any easier.
During the summer that separated Penny’s 3rd and 4th grade years, things escalated until one day, Bubba told his mother to take the other children and leave the house.
“Daddy came home one afternoon, and we were all at home, with Mother cooking supper. For some reason, he left again, and I know now that Bubba was convinced that he was going to kill us.”
Mrs. Campbell did as her son asked, and it wasn’t long before the word came that Mr. Campbell was dead, killed by his own son. Various men in the community came to the young man’s defense because they knew what the family had dealt with for years, and the son who killed his father was no billed.
“My brother could never forgive himself though. He carried it for the rest of his life.”
All of this would have been enough for any little girl to have to deal with; however, it was only a short 2 ½ years before a twelve-year-old Penny entered the funeral home again. This time she was preparing to bury her mother. As unbelievable as it seems, Mrs. Campbell was killed in a car accident, leaving Penny and her younger sister alone.
“All of these things worked to make all of us who we became. Bubba was 21, and he and his wife had a new baby who was exactly one week old, when our mother was killed. He came and got my sister and me, and we lived with them in Dallas until we were grown.”
Penny is quick to give her brother and sister-in-law a tremendous amount of credit.
“We had our problems, but can you just imagine how hard it must have been for two young people who were barely grown themselves to suddenly have to raise two teenagers?”
“Do you think it is because you suffered so much grief that you now can help others?”
“I think that knowing loss at such a young age, first with our house burning (Yes, she had forgotten to tell me that.), then my dad’s alcoholism and death, my mother’s death, and even leaving all I knew in Comanche and entering a school in Dallas where my grade had more children in it than did the entire school system in Comanche, has given me compassion and an understanding for what others have to go through themselves.”
And then we spent some moments discussing 2 Corinthians 1:4.
“…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
“As Christians, people are looking at us to see how we will handle life. Because of the things I’ve been through, I think I can go to almost anyone who has had a tragedy and talk to them because I’ve just always known how it is. I’m also a lot closer to God because without Him, I don’t see how people live through the things that come.”
And her advice to the rest of us?
“Find something to be happy about and be happy. I could be in a room with the covers pulled over my head, but I choose to be happy. My mother used to say that things will look better tomorrow, and they usually do.
“My family has always been, and still is, my top priority. I’ve never wanted them to see me as weak so that, hopefully, they will draw strength from the way I survived the trials and tribulations of life with God’s help. I want them to know there is always something to smile about!!”
Penny and I visited for a very long time, solving life’s problems, if you will. Somehow, after our goodbyes were all said, I was left with the words of an old hymn running through my head…“There’s peace in the time of trouble; there is shelter in the middle of the storm….”