#ThoughtBox|”Woke” is More than Knowing Better, It’s Doing Better Too

This past Sunday I met a young woman named Bentia. She looked like me... my kinky hair, my brown skin and my hopeful eyes. She approached me in the parking lot of the grocery store and asked me to help her. She needed food. She asked me if I would go back in the store and buy her and her two young children food for the day. She explained that someone had stolen her benefits cards and it takes 30 days for it to be replaced and now, two weeks later, she had nothing left to feed her children. I thought for a second and considered all that a present to the world... the things that I would tell you about myself. If you were to ask me, I would say I am a woman for other women. I would say that I am a person that cared and would point to all the that I have done to prove this point.. My volunteer work, hosted non-profit events and donations to organizations. But in this moment looking at this woman with my kinky hair, my brown skin and my hopeful eyes... Another me, would have walked away and been too scared to act. I would have not wanted to open myself up to a situation I cannot control. On a one to one level it is too easy to this is not my problem or brush her off someone trying to get over. I decided I wanted to be more that a list of good deeds that prove I am a good person. We went back into the store and we got her food for the day and I got her a gift card to cover food until her card arrived in another two weeks. After checking out we stared at each other and collapsed in a hug that felt familiar...sisterly. Overcome with emotion, I walked away and thought about this encounter the entire day. I just keep thinking of what another me would have done and how when we know better about the world, we have to do better. My question is what is the point of everyone staying woke if it does not help those who need it most and what would you have done?

This past Sunday I met a young woman named Betia. Betia looked like me, she had my kinky hair, my brown skin, and my hopeful eyes. She approached me in the parking lot of the grocery store and asked me to help her. She asked me if I would go back to the store and buy her and her two young children food for the day. She explained that someone had stolen her benefits card and it takes 30 days for it to be replaced. Now two weeks later, she had nothing left to feed her children.

I thought for a second and considered all that I present to the world… the things that I would tell you about myself. If you were to ask me, I would say I am a woman for other women.  I would say that I am a person that cared and would point to all the that I have done to prove this single point.

But then I thought about what I would have done when confronted with this situation years earlier. Would I be too scared to help? Afraid to be sucked into a situation I cannot control? Would I somehow demonize this woman for being in need? Maybe another me would have done all these things even while volunteering and telling you I am a person that cares. Living in an urban area, it’s easy to be jaded and “not want to get involved” when confronted by a person needing you to get involved. 

I decided I wanted to be more than a list of good deeds to faceless benefactors. We went back into the store and we got her food for the day and a gift card to cover food until her benefits card arrived in another two weeks.  After checking out,  Betia and I stared at each other and collapsed into a long embrace that felt familiar…sisterly. I just kept thinking had a few things happened differently… I could be her. I could be in a grocery store parking look searching for a kind face to help me feed me and my children.

Overcome with emotion, I walked away and thought about this encounter the entire day. Betia needed food but I needed this moment of truth. It served as a reminder that while contributing your time to organizations and understanding need is good, what good is it if you forget about the individuals whose lives are impacted every day? We think a lot about the nameless, faceless “they”, but “they” pass us every day … let “staying woke” make you a better doer and not just a better thinker about what has or has not been done. 

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