I believe that one of the most powerful influences in the lives of our children is the family. The home becomes a foundation where children are taught values and principles. It acts as a hub from which all of your daily experiences extend. Our homes are a safe haven, a refuge from a hostile world. It should be the place we feel most comfortable. Ultimately your family life will determine how you make decisions and choices, and will shape your character and your ability to have dynamic relationships. There is a powerful influence in a healthy home. This is the way God designed it, this is the way it is supposed to be.
A long road took nine children out of the cotton fields, out of poverty, out of Mississippi. But roads go both ways, and this Thanksgiving weekend, they all returned . . . one after another, and from every corner of America, the cars turned into the yard. With much cheering and much hugging, the nine children of Alex and Mary Chandler were coming home for their parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.
All nine children had memories of a sharecropper’s cabin and nothing to wear and nothing to eat. All nine are college graduates.
[There is] Gloria Chandler Coleman, master of arts, University of Missouri, a teacher in Kansas City . . . Cooking the meal in the kitchen of the new house the children built for their parents four years ago is Bessie Chandler Beasley, BA Tuskegee, MA Central Michigan, dietician at a veteran’s hospital, married to a PhD. And helping out, Princess Chandler Norman, MA Indiana University, a schoolteacher in Gary, Indiana.
Alex Chandler remembers the time when he had a horse and a cow and tried to buy a mule and couldn’t make the payments and lost the mule, the horse, and the cow. And about that time, Cleveland, the first son, decided he wanted to go to college.
Alex Chandler: We didn’t have any money. And we went to town; he wanted to catch the bus to go on up there. And so we went to town and borrowed two dollars and a half from her niece, and bought him a bus ticket. And when he got there, that’s all he had.
From that beginning he became Dr. Cleveland Chandler. He is chairman of the economics department at Howard University. How did they do it, starting on one of the poorest farms in the poorest part of the poorest state in America?
Princess Chandler Norman: We worked . . .
Norman: Yes, picked cotton, and pulled corn, stripped millet, dug potatoes.
They all left. Luther left for the University of Omaha and went on to become the Public Service Employment Manager for Kansas City. He helped his younger brother, James come to Omaha University, too, and go on to graduate work at Yale. And in his turn, James helped Herman, who graduated from Morgan State and is a technical manager in Dallas. And they helped themselves. Fortson, a Baptist minister in Pueblo, Colorado, wanted to go to Morehouse College . . .
So, helping themselves and helping one another, they all went away. And now, fifty years after life began for the Chandler family in a one-room shack in a cotton field, now, just as they were sitting down in the new house to the ham and turkey and sweet potatoes and cornbread and collard greens and two kinds of pie and three kinds of cake, now Donald arrived – the youngest – who had driven with his family all the way down from Minneapolis. And now the Chandlers were all together again.
Alex Chandler (saying grace): Our Father in heaven, we come at this moment, giving thee thanks for thou hast been so good and so kind. We want to thank you, oh God, for this, for your love and for your son. Thank you that you have provided for all of us through all these years. (Mr. Chandler begins weeping.)
Remembering all those years of sharecropping and going hungry and working for a white man for fifty cents a day and worrying about his children’s future, remembering all that Alex Chandler almost didn’t get through this blessing.
Alex (continuing grace): In Jesus’ name, amen.
And neither did the others. (Family members wiping tears away)
The Chandler family started with as near nothing as any family in America ever did. And so their Thanksgiving weekend might have been more thankful than most.
“I’ll Fly Away” is Mr. Chandler’s favorite [hymn]. His nine children flew away and made places for themselves in this country; and this weekend, came home again. There probably are no lessons in any of this, but I know that in the future, whenever I hear that the family is a dying institution, I’ll think of them. Whenever I hear anything in America is possible, I’ll think of them.
After watching this television program about the Chandler family, author Max Anders remarked:
This kind of dynamic family life doesn’t just happen; it is a result of a dynamic faith these parents passed down to nine children. First, they modeled it. Second, they taught it, formally. Third, they taught it informally. Fourth, they cultivated an environment in which their children could thrive.
There is power in the family!