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October 03, 2022

Where Every Family Matters

YOUR STORY: Shenell Gilliam-Rodgers

In "The Best Gift is Love," Shenell Gilliam-Rodgers shares an extraordinary heart for a circumstance that was completely out of her hands.

YOUR STORY: Shenell Gilliam-Rodgers

My story goes like this …

A little more than 40 years ago, I was born to a mother that already had four kids making me number five. However, for several reasons, she decided to give me away. There were no legal documents signed. Just a mother to another mother saying, “You can have her.”

    So my mama (not my biological mama) took me home and raised me as her own. I was told she tried to return me, but my biological mother did not want me. Therefore, she took me home with her and raised me as her own until her death. I was 19 and will never forget that day. On October 9, 1999, my dear mother departed this earth and my life was forever changed a second time. The first time was when she took me home as a baby with her. She loved and cared for me like she had birthed me. I always tell people I was favored from the day I was born. I can’t tell no one else’s story but my own. 

    This woman with a sixth-grade education from the country part of Tennessee (Somerville/Rossville area) worked as a housekeeper for more than 30 years at Rhodes College. She showed and gave me more love without ever really saying a word sometimes. My mama, Coline Warner Green, aka “Bea,” was my role model and will always be. She showed me what unconditional love looked liked. She instilled values in me that I try to instill in my two daughters each and every day. I am and will always be forever grateful to her.

    Not only to her. I’m forever grateful to my biological mother for putting me first and allowing me to have a life of love from four parents in their own way. She also showed me what love looks like. Two non-blood-related parents who I stayed with until I got married and two blood-related parents who raised me from a distance in their own way.
    I hear the term blended family sometimes, and I think to myself… half of my family is not blood-related, but that does not make them any less my family. If it wasn’t for all these people, I would not be the person I am today. My home was always full of love, food and people. I never wanted for anything. My family get-togethers were always crowded. Is my life perfect now? No, but I try to treat everyone with respect and live a life that contributes to the best of society. I respect that everyone has a story, and we should all examine ourselves instead of judging others. The best gift we can all use and give our kids and this world is LOVE. Thank you to all my family; because of you my life is full.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY! Write what you want to tell about yourself and your life — no matter what — in the body of an email. Include a photograph and send it to Noah Day at Anyone is welcomed to submit YOUR STORY at ANY TIME. You will be automatically entered into our ongoing prize drawings. The next prize drawing will be on Dec. 20, 2019. The winner will be notified via email.

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