Wendy Gladney (Courtesy Photo)

My heart is full of joy and overflowing with gratitude every time I think about my maternal grandmother, Rebecca Ruth Reed Harris. For as long as I can remember, everyone she loved and that loved her, called her, “Mother Dear.”

Do not get it twisted, it is not, “Ma Dear” or “Madea.” The reason she has that name is that she felt she was a mother to all, and we were near and so dear to her. I am so grateful for her, not just being my grandmother, but for being the woman that raised me when my birth mother abandoned me.

What I am most grateful for is, she was the person that introduced me to accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. She instilled in me the core values that I still abide by to this very day. She was my first role model and mentor.

My grandmother was not a famous woman, but she was bigger than life to those who knew her. She dedicated her life to her family, community, and most importantly, to God. She not only talked about what she believed, but she walked it every day of her life.

She was not perfect, because none of us are, but she was as perfect as they come. Her smile would light up any room she walked into, and she seemed to always have a pot of something on the stove in case someone was hungry.

She always had a few dollars for someone needing a helping hand. She lent an ear when someone needed someone to listen to them. Her love and kindness made a difference in the lives of many people.

She was born somewhere between 1900-1905. It is hard to say because back then, African Americans in the South were not born in hospitals and birth records were hard to find. Births and deaths were often written in the family bible, which is how they kept track of family history.

She came from a big family, and when her mother passed away, she took care of her brothers and sisters. After completing high school, she attended the HBCU Bishop College in Dallas, Texas. This is where a new phase of her life began.

While attending Bishop College, she met my grandfather, who was teaching at the school. They married, had nine children, and moved to California in hopes of a better life for their family and future generations.

Once they settled in Riverside, she was unable to find a job in her profession. She did not let that get her down. She did what she had to do to support her family, including doing “days” (maid) work until things turned around.

Eventually, she started her own fast-food restaurant called, Harris Burger Bin, so that young people in her neighborhood could have a place to hang out. She also opened an Income Tax Business to meet the needs of her community.

My grandmother’s degree was in education and eventually, she was able to work in the school district as a counselor helping young people chart their educational direction. My grandmother was the consummate entrepreneur and even after she retired from the school district, she never gave up her businesses. Her entrepreneurship was passed down to her children, grandchildren, and now even her great-grandchildren.

She lived a life that left a legacy for generations yet to come. She is my “she-ro,” who I celebrate and honor this Women’s History Month.

Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on.

Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker.