Wineka column: Having hope, belief and a faith in God

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

SALISBURY — Flora Smith, a self-described local preacher, will talk about the Lord wherever she finds an audience.
It could be among a group of veterans at the local VFW. It could be the people who ride with her on the “RITA” buses. She might stop in at the Brian Center to spread the word.
The folks who see her every other day during her dialysis know the evangelical nature of “Sister Smith.”
She always has spoken with people she meets in the hospital about her “good God,” for that’s what he is, she says.
“Mrs. Smith is a very jovial person and is always positive and praising God for what he does in her life and others,” says Corine Parks, a fellow member at Soldiers Memorial AME Zion.
Have hope and a belief and faith in God, “and he won’t let you down,” the 60-year-old Smith adds.
She says it’s not God’s fault she faces serious health challenges. Diabetes — something she has fought for years — finally laid claim to her right leg (below the knee) in April.
Now it looks as though she could lose part of her left leg, too. Her toes are turning black, “but they still have a pulse,” she says.
“I didn’t listen, and time after time he (God) would help me until the day came it had to come off,” Smith says. “It’s him who’s keeping me here today.”
Smith can walk a little bit with the help of her prosthetic leg and a walker, but she mainly depends on a motorized wheelchair.
She has ridden her wheelchair on sidewalks — and sometimes the street — from her Milford Hills home to Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church on Sunday.
It’s a couple of miles.
On Saturdays, when the county’s RITA buses aren’t running, she depends on the wheelchair to get her to DaVita Dialysis, just down Statesville Boulevard (on Dorsett Drive) from her house.
But she has to go early when it’s still dark, so she carries a flashlight. Sometimes she must steer the wheelchair onto the road because the sidewalk next to the new Hospice House construction site is a little rough.
“They told me I’m not supposed to do that, but dialysis is my lifeline,” Smith protests.
Her dialysis lasts about four-and-a-half hours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, sapping her strength, but not her spirit.
Her oldest daughter, Brandy, and son William provide help when they can. What she really needs, Smith says, is some kind of ramp or lift that would allow Brandy’s car to accommodate her big wheelchair.
Right now, they can’t afford what’s needed.
Smith’s amputation in April has cut back on some of her activities. She had been traveling to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in efforts to gain a degree in early childhood development.
But that’s on the shelf these days, as are the Friday mornings when she used to help out at the Partners in Learning childhood development center at Catawba College.
When Smith can’t attend church, she makes time to pray with the nurse who visits her home daily. Sometimes she will scoot across the street to Milford Hills Baptist Church, where Smith has prayed with the pastor on occasion.
“I rely on the Lord a lot,” Smith says. “I pray and talk to him. I hear his voice a lot — a feeling you get that he answers you. If I don’t get that feeling, I don’t try.”
When she talks with scared and lonely people in hospitals, Smith tells them not to be fearful, to trust in God.
“It’s good to encourage someone,” she says. “When you can’t walk, he’ll walk for you.”
A Concord native, Smith left North Carolina in her late teens to live with a sister in New York.
She spent almost 30 years in New York, had three children — Brandy, and twins William and Genevieve — and worked at many jobs. Her occupations included club manager, secretary to a home for wayward boys, correctional officer, security guard and microfilmist for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
She also attended a midtown Manhattan business school but fell a semester short of earning her accounting degree when she became pregnant with Brandy.
All the while, she fought her diabetes, until finally she was depending on disability payments.
Smith returned to her native state, settling in Salisbury, so she could be near her ailing father — a man who served in every capacity at the family’s home church of Price Memorial AME Zion.
“And I raised my children in the church,” she emphasizes.
Her father has since died, and she also has lost her mother and two sisters.
Smith says she has faced a world of hurt, but she always finds a bright side.
“Say, ‘Hi,’ Henry,” she says to her little goldfish swimming in a big bowl next to her television.
As with Sister Smith, Henry has never met a stranger.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@