In 2002 while working as a reporter for the Church News, I spoke to a woman from Maryville, Tennessee, named Lola Reid.
Times were once tough for Lola, who was orphaned at age 5. “We (came) up hard,” she told me. “We had nothing. We didn’t have food.”
But things got better and she found herself in a position to help others. In 1983, Lola founded the Blount County Food Pantry in Maryville.
Just over a decade later, she met missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were who volunteering at the pantry. Impressed with their selfless service — as well as the service of local Church members — she investigated and joined the Church.
When Sister Reid and I met, she was in the final stages of cancer. I hoped to talk to her about her life and many insights. But she had different ideas. All she wanted to discuss was one simple goal: Her food pantry had moved from five temporary locations over the years. Now the owner of the current location planned to sell the building soon, and Sister Reid was determined to buy it.
“I hope the food pantry can go on. Before I leave this world, I hope I can help them get a home,” she said. “I would be the happiest person knowing that they don’t have to move.”
I wrote a story about Sister Reid, detailing some of her life’s experiences and mentioning her dying desire.
About three weeks after the story ran I called Sister Reid, wanting to see if she had gotten a copy of the edition. Really, I wanted to know if she liked the story. A woman at the food pantry told me she was in the hospital, so I called her there.
“Is this Lola Reid?” I asked when she answered the phone.
“Who’s ask’n?” Lola snapped at me.
I was taken aback by her terse reply. “This is Sarah Weaver from the Church News,” I said.
The line was dead for the longest time. I said nothing, concluding that she had hung up on me. Maybe she didn’t like the article, I thought.
Then she spoke. Now her voice was soft and choked with emotion.
“Your people sent money,” she said.
I didn’t know what she meant. When I said nothing, she repeated herself.
“Your people sent money.”
“Pardon me?” I questioned.
Then Sister Reid changed one pronoun, which changed me and the way I would view my membership in the Church forever.
“Our people sent money,” she said.
Sister Reid — who was then in her 80s — and I were separated by five decades in time, thousands of miles and varied life experiences. Yet we shared something far greater — a belief in Jesus Christ and the Church He established on earth.
Realizing that Latter-day Saints from across the country had read the article and sent money to help Sister Reid, I simply responded: “Our people are like that.”
That is what I know now that I learned from Lola Reid. Latter-day Saints — 16 million strong — circle the globe, trying to emulate the Savior and His ministry. Sister Reid saw this in the missionaries who volunteered at the food pantry. The Latter-day Saints who donated to the Blount County Food Pantry in Maryville saw the same thing reflected in Sister Reid.
Sharing her testimony of Jesus Christ, Sister Reid told me that her faith sustained her in times of trial and motivated her to help the less fortunate.
“I have been given a lot. I have been given a lot,” she emphasized. “God has watched over me.”
— Sarah Jane Weaver is editor of the Church News.