Mary Thomas was a single mom of nine children living in Chicago's rough West Side neighborhood. Seven of Mary's nine kids were boys, young men constantly stretching the boundaries of their tired mother's authority and patience. One day in 1966, Mary opened her front door to find 25 street thugs on her stoop. The men, members of the notorious Vice Lords gang, had come to recruit her seven sons. Mary, hearing their intentions, dropped her gaze, said “Hold on just a second," and closed the door.
When the door opened again, the first thing the Vice Lords saw was the barrel of a loaded shotgun. “There's only one gang around here, and that's the Thomas gang.” As you might imagine, the gangsters scattered like a bunch of scalded dogs and never came back again. Ms. Thomas and her babies weren’t to be trifled with.
With that same fortitude, Mary Thomas ushered each of her nine “gang members” to their high school graduation. You may have heard of her youngest son—pro basketball player and Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas. When Mary Thomas passed at age 87, Isaiah told an ESPN reporter about her influence:
“My mom was very simple and very humble, and she loved helping people. On her dresser in her bedroom, she has a saying: 'What's done in life soon will pass. What's done with love will always last.' She just had a way of looking at you that made you feel like everything was all right. The way she observed me and perceived me and the way she looked at me, I felt like most loved person in the world, and I'm going to miss that."
There is nothing more beautiful, stronger or fierce than a mother’s love. A mother thinks about her children day and night. Even if they are not with her, and will love them in a way they will never understand. Novelist Agatha Christie wrote, “A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no limits; it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
So many times on Mother’s Day we talk about the beleaguered, exhausted, frazzled mother who is pulled in a million directions. While that picture may be true, mothers are masters at multi-tasking, we also forget what drives her is a force that is to be reckoned with. Her love is as tender a rose, immovable as granite, powerful as a thunderstorm, and when tested that same love can react with the ferocity of a wild animal.
Where would be without the God-given instincts of a mother who would risk life and limb for her family? Jimmy Dean, the country-western singer, does a number that always leaves me with a big knot in my throat. It’s titled “I Owe You.” In the song, a man is looking through his wallet and comes across a number of long-standing “I owe yous” to his mother . . . which he names one by one.
Borrowing that idea, I suggest you who have been guilty of presumption unfold some of your own “I owe yous” that are now yellow with age. Consider the priceless value of the one woman who made your life possible—your mother. Think about her example, her support, her humor, her counsel, her humility, her hospitality, her insight, her patience, her sacrifices. Her faith. Her hope. Her love.
If she is alive today tell her how much she means to you. Then shower her with gifts of love and service. If she’s gone on to be with the Lord, then say a prayer of thanksgiving praising God for such a beautiful person. Thanks mom for fighting for our family. -DM
 Melissa Isaacson, “One Tough, but Sweet Mother,” ESPN, 17 January 2010, <http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nba/columns/story?columnist=isaacson_melissa&id=4826990>