Miss Sallie reaches through time
NOTE: In celebration of the ministry’s 135th Anniversary, My Thoughts, on occasion, will be first person accounts by historic individuals who have helped make BCH what it is today. This month’s column is by Sallie McCracken (aka Jennie Counts).
Is it in the rocking chair on the porch of my home and declare nature has never provided a more beautiful site. The grass is green, the sky is brilliant blue, and the trees’ shade offers the most pleasant comfort. God surely is present here at Mills Home.
Reflecting on my life since arriving at The Orphanage in 1896, I recall many things. The Women’s Building is my home and has been for more than 70 years––it is as comfortable to me as my shawl or my cane. My eyesight isn’t as good as it once was, nor my legs strong, but my love for children and this place never dims.
I met Reverend J.B. Boone while I was a student at Judson College where he served as president. After teaching school for a while and doing some work as a secretary, Rev. Boone invited me to come to work for him at The Orphanage. I came to serve as his assistant, write letters, and keep records.
You can imagine my surprise and panic arriving that first day and being escorting to Durham Cottage to take charge of 32 rambunctious boys––all under the age of 12.
I protested vehemently, but finally consented to do my best. Having younger siblings prepared me to a small extent, although some days no amount of preparation mattered.
I remember looking at the faces of the boys, seeing their bottled-up energy, and feeling my knees go weak. I almost ran. But I soon realized, these boys were as uncertain as me.
I thought, “Was God calling me to this very place because the boys needed me––and I needed them?” The scripture from the Book of Esther came to my mind: “But who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”
My love for the Lord has always sustained me even as I pondered the uncertainty about my future. I knew He would lead me. What I didn’t know, upon reflection, was that my place of service here was to span more than 70 years, and I am still counting.
I later took charge of the Mother’s Cottage and the Watson Building, taught Sunday school, and served as secretary to superintendents Boone, Kesler, Greer, Wall, and Reed. Not only did I have to train new boys upon their arrival, but I had to break in a new general manager every few years.
Today at my advanced age, I still work as a research secretary. My main duty is to follow my former charges to see how they’ve fared. It has opened my eyes seeing the lifelong effect on these precious lives.
We are all children at heart, and we need a dose of love. It was, and is, my job to show these children that God loves them, and I do too. I always give a Bible to each child who enters our care.
It is also my task to instill values in the children that will serve them throughout life––Christian values of discipline, honesty, orderliness, and thoughtfulness. I encourage children to have a good attitude regardless of circumstances. A positive attitude often means success instead of failure.
One of my greatest rewards is to reconnect with “my children.” Some have become teachers, ministers, printers, doctors, business owners, factory workers, and farmers.
They are my heroes. They have risen above unfortunate circumstances. They have survived and are good citizens. They are loving and loyal to each other and to all of us here.Well, it is almost dark; the air is chilly so I’d best go inside. As I take one last look at the campus, I am reminded once again that “surely the presence of the Lord is in this place."
–– Sallie McCracken
Miss Sallie McCracken dies in 1969 at 99 and is buried in God's Acre at Mills Home in Thomasville. I came to Mills Home a short five years later in 1974. Her rich legend and lore is still very much alive. - Jennie Counts
My Thoughts by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO with guest columnist Jennie Counts