As a 3-year-old picking cotton alongside her mother in south Louisiana, Sherian Cadoria learned to remove the seeds from each boll, because clean cotton sold for more. And she learned to do it right.
When Mrs. Cadoria had to work, she had no choice but to send the preschool-aged Sherian with her older siblings to Holy Ghost Catholic School in Marksville. The nuns, in return, repeatedly sent notes asking Mrs. Cadoria to keep the child at home. “She is too little to come to school,” they said.
But Mrs. Cadoria kept sending her, and Sherian kept listening to everything that was going on around her in the one-room school house, lessons spanning several grades. The nuns eventually gave up and let her stay.
A few years later when she and her older brother and sister cleaned houses, their mother went along behind them to make sure they had done the job correctly. “If you’re not going to do it right,” she told them, “then leave it for someone who will.”
In Sherian Cadoria’s world, there was only one way to do things: the right way. There were no shortcuts. Regardless of how large her world grew, her standards never changed.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business education from Southern University in Baton Rouge and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma, she received a direct commission into the Women’s Army Corps in 1961 as a first lieutenant.
She became the first black female general in the US Army, the first woman to command an all-male battalion, the first woman to command a criminal investigation team and the first African-American woman director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She holds the honor of becoming the highest-ranking black woman in the Women’s Army Corps.
Her positions sometimes required that she make public speeches. Though her Creole dialect with its unique timbre endeared her to her fellow officers, she was not satisfied with the way she spoke, so she took speech classes wherever she was stationed throughout her career. If she was going to speak, she wanted to do it right.
Army Brig. Gen. Sherian Cadoria is one of four recipients of the 2004 Louisiana Legends Award given by Louisiana Public Broadcasting. And she still insists on doing things right.
She retired from the Army in 1990 and moved back to the Marksville area to care for her elderly mother and other family members. When she arrived, she discovered that the 7 a.m. service at the Holy Ghost Catholic Church didn’t have a choir, so she volunteered to direct one. She insists that the choir members practice and even bought an organ for them to use.
Today she takes both piano and singing lessons to better equip herself. “But I’m not progressing as fast as I’d like. I want to get it perfect. That’s what generals do,” she says with a smile.
Those serious about Christian discipleship ought not to miss the parallels Sherian Cadoria’s example provides. Doing things half-heartedly or with selfish motives ought to be incompatible with our characters. Our personal desires should pale in importance to that of the kingdom’s greater good.
If you’re going to do it, Jesus said about following him, do it right. There are no shortcuts. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34b). And he showed us how.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.