“No. I can’t do it” were the words I said to Zell Long and Evie Boyd, Boys and Girls Club staff, when they asked me to participate as a chef in a fundraiser called, “Cooking Like the Stars.”
“I am not a chef. I don’t know how to cook that fancy food.”
I then thought about this little 10 year-old girl whose mother happened to be single (her husband had died). The little girl’s grandparents had died before she was born. Her older siblings were already out of the house and lived in other places. It was only her and her mother. Her mother worked 10 to 12 hours a day and didn’t get home until very late in the evenings – sometimes as late as 7 o’clock. She told the little girl this, “When you get off the bus – you must go into the house and lock the door. Do not open the door at all if someone knocks. Do not answer the telephone. Only have one light on when it gets dark. Keep the volume low on the television. Do not call your friends because I don’t want anyone to know you are home alone.” That little girl was very brave and obedient and did exactly as her mother instructed.
I thought about the little girl sitting at home afraid and all alone in the dark. The girl didn’t have a choice. Her mother said, “I have to work to keep a roof over our heads and to keep food on the table.” Think of all the things that could have gone wrong during those times; how that little girl could have been molested; robbed; burned; kidnapped or killed because she was home alone. This is a true story. I happen to know that little girl very well.
She heard various kinds of noises. One night she heard a sound near a window in the back. The screen was removed and the window began to rise. She ran to the kitchen, got her Mama’s sharpest butcher’s knife and held it in her hand as the person came through the window. She got ready to strike and her brother yelled, “It’s me! Jesse!” He had forgotten his key.
As those memories flooded my mind about that little girl, I thought about the mission of the Boys & Girls Club and the fact that because of fundraisers that support the club – children don’t have to be home alone. Children can have adult supervision and a safe environment to learn and to play. Little boys and girls don’t have to suffer the same fate as that little girl. Later, Zell asked me again, and I immediately said, “Yes, I’ll do it.”
I thought about my cooking skills and, once again, realized, the powerful impact of my mother (Mrs. Bernice Gambrell) on my life. When she cooked, I would watch how she seasoned the fresh vegetables from her garden; how she prepared the meat; how she made delicious cakes – all of this for our family and whoever entered her doors. So many people stopped by Mama’s house to eat and she welcomed them. In spite of her socio-economic status, Mama, in her own way, still managed to give back to the community. We still continue this tradition. Every Sunday, Mama’s house is filled with family and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who all fondly refer to her as “Big Mama.”
President Kennedy summed up our life of service and giving when he said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
Will you ask yourself, “What can I do to make a difference in somebody’s life or for an organization? Who can I bless? What good can I do? Who can I invite into my home and simply feed them?”
During this season of giving and throughout the years, remember the story of that little girl, as you give to an organization, a non-profit agency, or to an individual. By the way, that little 10 year- old girl home alone – was me. I know first- hand what your giving means to a child and what your giving means to worthy causes.
If you give your time, talents and money – will it make a positive difference? Will it help some child? Will it help some organization? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contact her at email@example.com.