You may have heard of Osceola McCarty. She’s an 88yearold woman in Mississippi who had worked for over 75 years as a washer woman. One day after she retired, she went to the bank and discovered, to her great surprise, that her meager monthly savings had grown to over $150, 000. Then to everyone’s great surprise, she turned around and donated $150,000—almost all of those savings—to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) for a scholarship fund for AfricanAmerican students with financial needs. She made national headlines.
What you have not heard is how Osceola’s gift had affected my life. I am 19 years old and the first recipient1 of an Osceola McCarty Scholarship.
I was a dedicated student, and I had my heart set on going to USM. But I missed being eligible for a regular scholarship by one point on the entrance exams, and a scholarship was the only way I could attend.
One Sunday, I came across the story in the paper about Osceola McCarty and her generous gift. I showed my mother the article, and we both agreed it was a great thing to have done.
The next day I went to the financial aid office, and they told me there was still no money available for me, but if anything came up they’d call. A few days later, as I was running out the door to catch a ride with my mother to work, the phone rang. I stopped to pick it up, and while I heard my mother honking2 the horn for me to hurry up, they told me I had been chosen to receive the first Osceola McCarty Scholarship. I was ecstatic！ I ran out as fast as I could to tell my mother. She had to call the office again herself to make sure it was true.
I first met Osceola at a press conference—meeting her was like finding family. Osceola never married, nor had children, so my family has since become her family. My grandma and she talk on the phone regularly and do errands together, and she joins us for family functions.
Once we got round to talking about ice cream. We found out Osceola hadn’t had much experience with ice cream, so we all packed into the car and went to the Dairy Queen, where we ordered Osceola her first banana split！ She has ice cream a lot now.
Osceola worked hard her whole life—from early in the morning to sunset—washing clothes by hand. I used to drive right by her house every day on my way to school. Of course, at the time I didn’t know it was her house, but I did notice how well kept the lawn was and how everything was clean and neat. Recently I asked her why I never saw her once in all that time, and she answered, “I guess I was out in back, washing clothes.”
Now that Osceola’s retired, she sits most of the day and reads the Bible. That is, when she’s not getting rewards！ Every time I go visit, she has a new award. She’s even gone to the White House. She is so happy and proud, though not at all conceited. We had to talk her into getting a VCR so she could tape the programs and see herself on TV—she just sits and smiles.
Osceola gave me much more than a scholarship. She taught me about the gift of giving. Now I know there are good people in the world who do good things. She worked her whole life and gave to others, and in turn she has inspired3 me to give back when I can. Eventually I plan to add to her scholarship fund.
I want to give Osceola the family she’s always wanted, so I’ve adopted her as another grandma. She even calls me her granddaughter. And when I graduate from USM, she’ll be sitting in the audience between my mother and my grandmother—right where she belongs.