A New Year

January 1, 2017

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The change of the numbers on a calendar always brings reflections on years past. This year, 2016, was especially eventful for me. My precious baby sister faced pancreatic cancer head on. It brought on a reinforced bonding of the four sisters. We put our prayer warriors on the job and they came through for us. After months of tortuous treatments, surgeries, and anxiety, she meets the New Year cancer-free. Thank God.

I published three books this year and am currently working on two new ones. The people running around in my head won’t leave me alone. They want their stories told.

I am daily reminded of how fortunate I am. I remember the day I realized we were rich. We lived in a small, old house on St. Paul, on the east side of Detroit. It was within walking distance of the big stove. That makes sense only to Detroiters, particularly east-siders.

It was a lower-class neighborhood. We had rats in the house and roaches. We bought many of our clothes at the Goodwill. On Christmas, the Goodfellows brought us packages with one new outfit, including underwear, a doll for the girls and maybe a toy car for the boys, and a voucher for new shoes. In the summer, we went to summer camp provided by the Salvation Army. I knew we were underprivileged, but I didn’t know we were rich until the day I learned to appreciate what we had.

I discovered this when I went to play with a friend at the rented upstairs flat where she lived with her mother and two sisters. Her mother gave her a folded piece of paper and told her, “Take the wagon and go to the monastery. Give this to the monk.”

We walked the five or six blocks to Mt. Elliot around to the side of St. Bonaventure Monastery. We went to the gate in the stockade fence. My friend pulled the bell rope, and after a while, we were greeted by a friar in the old-fashioned robes. My friend handed him the note, he read it, and without speaking, took the wagon and closed the gate.

We waited about a half-hour. I don’t know why, but I didn’t ask questions. Something significant was going on, and I was content to study the situation and absorb the facts.

When the friar re-appeared, he brought the wagon filled with brown paper bags and, with a compassionate smile, turned it over to my friend. Her family wasn’t Catholic, but that didn’t matter. His Christian charity didn’t know denominations, it only knew need. She said, “Thank you.”

He never spoke a word, but simply closed the gate. We returned to her home. I watched while her mother unpacked the brown bags. She laid out the groceries, among them, bread, bags of rice, milk, eggs, and cheese on the table. When she opened the refrigerator, it was empty. She placed the dairy items inside and opened the also empty…totally empty…pantry to put away the bread and rice and the rest of the food.

I thought of my own home where I lived with my maternal grandparents. The pantry was filled with Mason jars of fruit and vegetables my grandmother had canned the fall before. The refrigerator was crammed with meat, milk, chicken, and butter.

While I often vied with my uncles, who were only a few years older than I, for the meat in the stew, we never left our table hungry. There was plenty of food at every meal.

I knew my grandparents owned the house we lived in, such as it was. We didn’t have to worry about rent.

Daddy, my grandfather Mayse, had a steady job, and he never missed a day at work. He died of a heart attack on his way to his job.

I didn’t know what it was like to be hungry and have nothing…nothing…to eat. I still don’t. I have been blessed.

So, I’ll end this old year by saying, “Thank you, Lord, for all you have given me.”

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