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.