Scientists now claim to have discovered a “bravery gene” and are attempting to stimulate it in timid little mice. Some day we may all have the option to be lionhearted. Years ago while living in South Florida, I discovered my own private bravery prod.
I was assigned to my newest “first time offender” by the courts and had met the child, Samantha, only once at her school. It was now time to meet the grandmother into whose custody the child had been released. I had followed to the letter the instructions about dress – no jewelry, no revealing or ultra stylish clothing, and no flashy expensive car. Still it was a shock when I entered the neighborhood where this child lived. I was not even aware that such areas existed in this part of town – a tiny ghetto nestled under the expressway just blocks from a comfortable middleclass neighborhood. As I was gathering my courage to get out of the car a rather scruffy man walked by drinking out of a paper bag. It was 11 o’clock in the morning, a time my supervisor had suggested as the best time to make this call. I decided that it was also a good time to make another call.
“Dear Father,” I started, “I know this is where you want me to be and I am happy to do your work, but right now I’m a little scared. Actually, I’m a lot scared. I want to turn around and go back home where I know it’s safe. I don’t want to walk into that apartment building, ever. Please help me.”
I sat there quietly. Finally the panic subsided. My heart rate slowed and my breath came easier. I was still scared but at least now I could get out of the car without passing out. Praying constantly, I entered the courtyard, carefully scanning the four-story building that enclosed it. Most of the individual apartment doors were open and I saw several women sitting outside chatting.
Suddenly one of the women stood up in front of me. My heart stopped for a moment but the panic passed as the woman said with a warm smile, “You the lady come to see Miz Johnson about Booger?”
“Uh, you mean Samantha? Yes, I am. Can you point me in the right direction?”
“I’ll do better than that, I’ll take you. You might get yourself lost in here.”
As we walked toward the stairwell we passed another group of women. Everyone seemed to know who I was and why I was there. They all nodded and smiled and one said, “’Bout time somebody done somethin’ about that Booger. She drivin’ poor Lether outta her mind.”
I started to feel a little better about this whole situation. These black women were just like the Italian women in the old neighborhood where I grew up. Everyone knew what was going on in everyone else’s life and more importantly, they cared about it. You never carried your burdens alone in the neighborhood. I was able to smile back at them as I followed my guide.
We finally reached Mrs. Johnson’s apartment where my guide left me. Mrs. Johnson was a warm, friendly woman who was completely defeated by her granddaughter’s behavior. She was doing the best she knew how. As she explained the situation, “I beat her and beat her, but it don’t do no good.” That little tidbit would not go into the report, lest the child go into foster care and Mrs. Johnson end up in jail.
We tossed around some ideas and Mrs. Johnson finally agreed to take a parenting skills class and to send Samantha for a psychological evaluation. I agreed that the county and Medicaid would pick up the tab for these services. We both agreed that this was just a beginning.
I became anxious once again as I prepared to leave the safety of the apartment and make my way back to the parking lot. But I need not have worried. My original guide was waiting for me just outside the door. I turned to thank her as I reached my car but the woman said, “No, thank you and God bless you.”
I was sure I heard the rustle of wings as the woman turned away and that glow around her head looked just like a halo. I whispered, “Thank you, Lord, for sending your angel to guide me.”
That’s how I discovered my own “bravery prod”, only I call it prayer.
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