Watch Me Work: Community Is Rescue, Refuge and Transformative

When I was a kid, my little brother had a friend named Charles. Everybody called Charles ‘Bucket’. I don’t remember why we called him Bucket; that was just his name. He was wild and very funny. 

We lived in a quiet neighborhood on a short, even more quiet street. We almost always played in the yards and the street because there weren’t really any cars coming down. But there was this teenager around the corner who was known for blasting down the street with reckless abandon. We’d find ourselves scrambling out of the road, yanking the younger kids by their shirts, pulling them outta harm’s way.

One day, Bucket was laying down in the street. We kept begging him to get up and get out of the road! But, he wouldn’t. So, I went and told my Mama. She told me to go tell Bucket’s mama that he was lying in the middle of the road. Then, as I was turning to go, she stopped me and said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She went outside and promptly yelled, “Bucket getcho little Black ass up out the street!” Bucket hustled his little self out of the road and we went to the park.

Nobody cried, nobody fought. His mother wasn’t offended because she knew, it takes a little bit of love from everybody that touches a child, to make that child whole. 

When I was a teenager, my parents and I weren’t seeing eye to eye for 1001 reasons. Then, one day, I beat up my little sister and my mom kicked me out. I spent the first night at a friends house. Her Dad was pissed that I was eating dinner there. I was scared and sad. Her mother refused to throw me out. My friend‘s mom told him to get a beer and stfu. The next day, she gave me $40 and told me she hoped I would find somewhere safe to go. But I couldn’t stay at her house.

I went to go find my friend who had recently moved. So, I went to her grandma’s house. She told me that friend and friend’s mom would be unavailable for a few days but, that I could stay with her until they got back.

I was afraid. I didn’t wanna stay in a strange place and I didn’t want my friend to be angry with me for staying at her grandma’s house. Grandma insisted. She said, “I am not letting you leave this house. It is dark and you are pretty. Lay down on the couch and go to bed.”

So I did.

I stayed at her house three days until my friend and her mom discovered where I was and came to get me. I DIDNT EVEN KNOW THEY HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR ME! But, they came and they got me from Granny’s house and took me to their house. They let me stay there for two months until a shelter for teens and young adults had an open bed. 

When I was in college, my friend Courtney was poking around in my closet as we women tend to do. She noticed that I honestly didn’t have much. I had a couple pair of jeans and four shirts. She made some jokes about it and then we went to get food. The next day, Courtney came to my room unannounced (We did that in the dorms! Just hop on the elevator and see if somebody was home! LOL). She came with food; toiletries; stuff for my hair; and two packs of panties. She said, “You’re always helping me with my papers. So, I thought I’d help you with some stuff.” She hugged me. We ate. She left. Didn’t embarrass me, didn’t make me feel small, she just saw a need and looked at me with love and filled that need. 

These are really not even one percent of the stories I have. The stories about the way the people around me have always taught me to take care of the people I come into contact with. Whether I’m donating food, watching kids for free, doing hair with my arthritic hands, I’m feeding a need in my community. 

I feel like Black mothers have taught us to mother each other and the community. We all grew up knowing we could get snatched up or told on. We knew where we could go if our parents didn’t come home. I knew I could go to a friend’s grandmother’s house to find help. I had no idea how much help I’d actually find! Then, to find a shelter for teens in my area that allowed me to come and get a job and start saving money? It gave me a foundation to start a life on my own without ever being truly alone. 

I think that’s what the value of community truly is this: the idea that we are never truly as alone as we may feel. The evidence can be found in the ways our needs are fed by the souls and environment around us. That is why it’s so imperative for every adult to find a way to donate time and energy to helping someone in their area. By doing so, it will illustrate to the younger generation both a desire and a responsibility to feed the need. 

[images from, and]


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