On November 18, 1978, my aunt, Lexie Smith Davis, was one of 918 people who died in the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. As I remember her, I am reminded of some of the take-aways that I learned from her life.
• I’ve learned that God puts us in families, and that there is wisdom in communicating openly with our birth and created families. Our birth families – our parents and siblings – help reflect who we really are; how we grow and change over time; and how much we stay the same. When we create other families – marry, have children – we must strive to communicate even as we shape the personality of this new entity with the values and beliefs that we honor, live out, and pass on to the next generation.
• I’ve learned that many people attempt to create their own version of good and evil. We want the good to be as we define it, and we want evil to be all that we hate and don’t understand. We put people, our understanding of God, and ourselves in boxes that are sealed against all additional thought and reasoning. Rather than go to the source of knowledge, the Word of God (the Bible), we would rather get a quick fix from charismatic leaders mixed with our own propensities toward certain “truths.”
• I’ve learned that in the end, we must have discernment in addition to knowledge of The Book. My mother was drawn to be with her sister, but her heart and spirit told her that Aunt Lexie was on a slippery slide toward damnation. In the end, all my mom could do was to save herself and her family by labeling Jim Jones as the kook that he was.
• I’ve learned that we can all want Paradise, but there are no perfect worlds in this one. Life is made up of good people who have a little bad, bad people who have a little good, and horrible people who masquerade as angelic or god-like. We must strip them of their facades and know the difference.
• I’ve learned that in spite of the many, many bad things in this world, life is still worth living every day, that God is in Heaven, and that there is still hope for mankind.