Meet a Homeowner - Ms. Rebecca Robinson
Each spring and summer, SOS gets to partner with 40-50 homeowners as we seek to help make their homes warmer, safer and drier. We are able to build relationships with some of them throughout the repair process and want to introduce them to our broader SOS family when we can. Recently I sat down with Miss Rebecca Robinson from Orange Mound. I get to hear Miss Rebecca’s voice over the phone at least every other week and every time I call she’s cleanin’ greens at her sink or in the middle of baking something. You would never guess she’s every bit of 93 years old! When I stopped by to chat the other afternoon it was no different - in between telling me stories about all the people she’s loved well over the years, Miss Rebecca would pop up to check on what she was fixing on the stove for her niece, Miss Beatrice, down the street. She’d holler from the kitchen, “What do you know about pear preserves?”, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” and “Boy, do I miss those kids bein’ ‘round here!” This woman can talk all day long about the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness and it’s a joy to share a little bit of our conversation with y’all!
Emily: SOS had the privilege of partnering with both you and your niece Miss Beatrice (who lives just down the street) over the summer and we’re excited to be continuing that partnership through the Aging in Place program! What was it like to have so many people around your house for all of June & July?
Miss Rebecca: Story of my life. I’ve always had people around so it was fun to me! My house is a home for people to come and laugh and eat at. That’s who I am, I love people!
E: I heard over and over this summer how you energetically went out of your way to love on the campers who worked with you. We’re so grateful for that and hope you were blessed as well!
Miss R: I am so grateful! I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t afford to replace my roof on my own. The children were always laughing and having so much fun together.
E: When did you first move to Orange Mound?
Miss R: When I come back to Memphis after being up north, I stayed single for a while but when I met my second husband, we rented one bedroom in a house on Marechalneil. I bought an oil stove and we cooked and ate and slept in the same room. I also lived a while on David St. and on Hugenot St. but in 1956 I said to my husband, “Bubba, lets buy a house”. And he said, “With what?”. So we found this house on Boston St. for $4,000 and got a loan to pay the $750 down payment. My husband made $30/wk and I made $1/day and we took in my 4 nieces and nephews to raise them but we managed to get by. My niece and I cleaned the church down the street and my husband cut the lawn and that paid our $45/mo house note.
E: Since meeting you a year ago, I’ve heard you tell a lot of stories from your life and how rich and full it has been. What was your favorite job or place of employment over the years?
Miss R: Well I’ve worked in the fields, I’ve worked in a chicken factory, I’ve worked in a tomato factory… but private home. Private home care has been my favorite because I’ve gotten close to so many people. Those people are my family and they’ve taken care of me and been so good to me.
E: You’ve managed to maintain an incredible number of relationships over the years, how do you do that?
Miss R: People have been so good to me. I just love having everyone around me. There’s a lot of joy I carry in my heart. I’ve left every bridge in my life standing so I can cross back over when I need to. You don’t know where you’re goin’, you only know where you been. The Bible says to turn the other cheek and sometimes it’s better, even if you’re right, to walk away. Some things are better left unsaid.
E: What was it like living in Memphis when Dr. King Jr was here for the sanitation strike?
Miss R: It was mostly sad to me. I just prayed. I don’t think about “you black” and “you white”. It’s all just people to me. I didn’t participate in any marches. I just stayed Becky and let God work it out.
E: How have you seen the dynamics of your neighborhood change since then?
Miss R: I worked ever since I was young & put money aside to take care of people. Back in that time when we first moved here, people cared about each other. When people died, neighbors took up money to buy flowers. It’s changed so much, I see too much. Too many people don’t want to work anymore and “it’s all about me”.
E: I love your joy, energy and passion for people and I know impacted so many people! What are some words of wisdom you can share?
Miss R: I saw Mike the other day- he’s one of the boys I helped raise- and I told him, “I changed your diapers… and they weren’t Pampers either!”. He said, “Becky, don’t ever forget your sense of humor”, and I won’t. You need to be a Christian and live it out -not just talk the talk- but you also need to enjoy life. You need to laugh, dance & have fun. Help someone when you can. Don’t ever give up. Everything is possible.