A life-changing conversation between mother and son
When he was 10 years old, David Eisenhower was vey excited about joining his older brothers to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night. But his parents wouldn’t let him go. They thought he was too young. David threw a terrible temper tantrum. He begged his parents for the chance to join his brothers. In a rage, he screamed and cried and beat his hands against a tree.
His father spanked him and sent him to bed. Later on, his mother came to comfort her son, taking him into her lap and gently rocking him. After a time of quiet, she quoted Proverbs 16:32: “He that conquers his own soul is greater than he who takes a city.” She explained to him how dangerous it was to hold bitterness in your heart towards others. Hanging onto anger will damage and imprison you.
Sixty-six years later, when he was seventy-six, Eisenhower wrote, “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life. To my youthful mind, it seemed to me that she talked for hours, but I suppose the affair was ended in fifteen or twenty minutes. At least she got me to acknowledge that I was wrong and I felt enough ease in my mind to fall off to sleep.”[i]
Here is another example of foot-washing. In this case, we see the long lasting impact of sitting quietly with a person and speaking kind words. Ida Eisenhower was doing what all faithful mothers do. She was consoling and counseling her young boy. She couldn’t have known she was shaping the character of a boy who would become President of the United States. She couldn’t have known that this 20-minute conversation would always be remembered by her son as one of his most life-changing moments. The slow, steady, humble work of showing compassion to a weeping child has long-term benefits that we can’t see in the moment of crisis. This was another “secret place” moment of showing love to a hurting child. God sees every kind word, every minute and hour you’ve spent in compassionate caring. God sees that kind of faithfulness and rewards it—even if it takes a long time. Through the centuries, mothers have had huge influence in shaping the character of their children and students, some of whom become leaders and influencers. Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
What if David Eisenhower had turned out to have an unproductive, unremarkable life? What if he had spurned all of Ida’s wisdom and guidance? Would that have changed the value of Ida’s tender care for him? No. If you’ve loved, you’ve succeeded. If you “make love your highest goal,” as the Apostle Paul says, you’ve done well. We can’t control how the recipients of our love will respond.
[i] David Brooks, The Road to Character, Random House, New York, 2015, Page 52.