Amazon Prime released a series called “Them”. It is set in the 1950’s, and it tells the story of a Black family that moves into an all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles. Watching this show reminds me of the fact that my parents were the second Black family on our street. This was well before I was born but I’ve heard the story all my life.
The female neighbor next door told the other neighbor on the opposite side that since N-words lived there now she didn’t want “their” plums falling in her yard. So the other neighbor cut the plum tree in our back yard down in the middle of the night. My daddy, being who he was, burned the man’s storage shed down and cut his fig tree down. This kind of thing went on for a few years.
By the time I was born, there was another plum tree, fig tree, and storage shed. The neighbor who didn’t want the N-word’s plums in her yard ended up babysitting me after school, and her grandchildren who spent the summer with her stayed in our house and back yard most of the time. We played,fought, and got spankings together too many times to count. We even painted them black with charcoal and dog poop once and all ended up in the bathtub together.
Over the years, TWO men who originally hated one another got older and sickly, but by this time they both had spare keys to each other’s homes in case of an emergency. The man who had cut our plum tree down at one point had the pleasure of cleaning up after my dad after he had soiled himself, and he stayed there with my dad until my mom got home. He also cooked for him on dialysis days.
My dad would sometimes ride his wheelchair down to the other man’s house to take a plate of food my mom had made, or they would have a cup of coffee standing out on the property line they once cursed at each other over.
Both of those neighbors are long gone now. All I have are fond memories of them both. When my brother passed, the male neighbor was the first person to hug and kiss me and tell me he loved me. The female neighbor left me my favorite one of her tea cups that she used to use for sun-tea and allowed me to use for my after school snack. Until the male neighbor was well into his 80’s he helped my mom in any way possible without her having to even ask. His family still sends her greeting cards and gifts from time to time.
The show “Them” is a trigger for many reasons, but from a cinematic perspective, it is very suspenseful, and this can make it easy for us to forget the advice to love thy neighbor. If we all put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes and committed to truly loving them, imagine how much greater we could become as individuals, families, and communities.
How diverse is the neighborhood you live in? Are your neighbors a big part of your family’s life?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Disha Ellis. Photo credit to the author.
Crime is not part of my daily life. I live in a middle to upper-class neighbourhood in Cape Town. We have an active Neighbourhood Watch, and most of the people in my neighbourhood also belong to the Community Policing Forum (aka CPF). The CPF has monthly meetings where we discuss crime stats, share self-defence tips etc. We all have signs on our gates indicating that we’re part of the CPF. We also have a WhatsApp group where we keep in contact with each. We’re all just a message away in case of medical or other emergency. I have always felt safe enough to leave my front door unlatched during the day.
This month, my illusion of safety was temporarily shattered. One morning, in broad daylight, shots were fired on my road! At first we couldn’t believe that it was gunshots. After all, this is a quiet neighbourhood and it was at a time of day when our road is pretty busy. Neighbourhood Watch was immediately on the case, whilst the rest of us were left stunned and wondering what we could do to help.
Roughly 30 minutes later I pulled out of my driveway into a surreal scene. Police cars, Neighbourhood Watch personnel and private security company vehicles were blocking the road. The crime tape was around my next-door neighbour’s property! That’s right – an armed robbery happened in the house on the other side of our boundary wall! I felt as if I’d been cast as an extra in a movie or TV series. Surely this can’t be real?! It was.
This is what happened:
My neighbour (let’s call him Bill) pulled out of his driveway and realised that he’d forgotten something, so he quickly ran back inside the house to fetch it without closing his gate (as we’ve all done numerous times). Two armed men followed him inside, pistol-whipped him, tied him up and demanded that he show them where his safe was.
At this time my neighbour’s adult son (let’s call him John) arrived with his wife. She walked inside whilst he waited in the car. She walked in on the robbers and screamed. The 2 armed suspects fled with the safe, but then dropped it as soon as they saw John, and jumped into the vehicle which was being driven by a 3rd suspect. John followed them and they shot at him out of the window – just like they do in movies! By then (thanks to our CPF network), police and other response vehicles joined in the chase. Two of the suspects jumped out the car when it got stuck in traffic and were promptly arrested. The driver got away, but later the same day he was arrested too.
I’ve been left rather bemused by this. By the next day there was no sign left of what had happened. Apart from the shock that this happening caused in our quiet and close-knit community, no real harm was done. The stolen goods were recovered, nobody was seriously injured and the suspects were arrested immediately. Things could have gone a lot worse. In fact, in many ways this could be considered a win for law and order.
That said, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I don’t know if it’s because of the shows that I watch, or just because it doesn’t seem possible that this happened right next door to my house. The strangest thing is that my neighbour is one of very few people on our street who did not belong to the CPF, and I can’t help but wonder if that was a factor in him being targeted.
Truthfully (but possibly foolishly) I still feel safe where I live.
Have you lived through something that just didn’t seem real or possible? How do you feel about it with hindsight?
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Clark, an amazing woman who organized an initiative called Project Love around the holidays. Driving through the valley in which she lives, Melissa spotted a campfire from a homeless enclave. Seeing folks struggling to stay warm on such a cold winter day moved Melissa in a very personal way. You see, not too long ago, Melissa herself was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.
I connected with Melissa through her current home, Acres of Diamonds , in Duvall, Washington, USA. AOD is a faith-based non-profit that provides housing, life coaching, and a variety of support services to homeless women and their children affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health problems. AOD provides more than just temporary shelter. The residents at AOD join a program to break the cycles that keep them from self-sufficiency.
The goal for the residents is to achieve complete independence via graduating out of the residence and supporting themselves and their children on their own while making meaningful contributions to society.
At the time of our talk, Melissa had been at AOD and sober for 9 months. Her 7-year-old son was living with her, and she found employment at a local pizza shop. Melissa shared that she finally feels safe, secure, and loved. When she saw that homeless person’s campfire on her drive home, though, she remembered a different time in her life. The cold, the helplessness, and the spiritual battles all came to mind, and she felt God spoke to her heart in that moment to take action. But before she put plans in motion, she thought it best to honor the individuals she was trying to help by figuring out just what they needed. She and a friend visited some of the homeless folks in the community, invited them to lunch at McDonald’s, and asked them directly what they could use.
From there, the two friends put together a PowerPoint presentation for their church and pitched the idea to create care packages to deliver to the local homeless population. These efforts, titled Project Love, in partnership with an event at a local gym, resulted in huge numbers of clothing, toiletries, coats, sleeping bags, and other essentials getting directly into the hands of those forgotten members of the community.
Furthermore, Melissa, along with her son and an escort for safety, delivered packages to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Since then, she has also secured a standing gift card at the local bike shop for any homeless persons who come in needing repairs and provided a pair of insulated boots to a homeless veteran, who thanked her with tears in his eyes. She hopes to organize donation drives at least twice per year.
Melissa feels it is her ministry to show love and understanding without judgement to the homeless. Her goal is to let these people know that she sees their humanity by taking the time to listen to their stories and helping them get what they need to make it through the seasons. She views it as her duty to share the love and security she has received with others still struggling to break the cycle of homelessness. Whether she gets a person a warm meal or gifts them new gloves, she plans to keep taking steps to lift up those around her.
Talking with Melissa inspired me. I admire her ability to celebrate her own milestones while not placing value judgements on those still farther back on the path.
I admire the example she is setting for her son on overcoming obstacles to build a better future for oneself while still showing compassion for others. And I admire her willingness to look another human being in the eye and ask, “Are you ok? What can I do to help?” We live in such contentious times right now in America. People are struggling to find common ground, and they are lashing out at each other daily. Hearing Melissa’s story reminded me how simple gestures towards those around us make a huge impact and prompted me to consider what more I can be doing to help people in my community.
Melissa’s journey to sobriety and self-sufficiency is a testament to her strength, but her generosity shows her outstanding character. It’s not about how much you have, but how much you are willing to give to help those around you. And sometimes paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a thing. After all, love is free.
Who inspires you in your community?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Picture used with the permission of Melissa Clark.
World Mom, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, and her son.
I began blogging when I was eight months pregnant with my first son, in March 2011. As a 32 year-old who had worked in both, the media and the development fields, for a decade, I considered myself ‘very well-knowledgeable about stuff’ and thought I knew all there was to know about pregnancy and motherhood.
But in those eight months, I had soon discovered that I really didn’t know much. This is because I would always have so many questions about the pregnancy – very simple, but yet, difficult questions that not even the internet could answer. At each gynecologist’s appointment, I would always have tens of questions for my doctor who thankfully was patient enough to answer them all.
But even then, there are questions that the doctor could not answer satisfactorily. I needed to hear from someone who’d gone through what I was going through, and hence, I would find myself asking many mums about their experiences and if what I was going through was normal – you know – the weird cravings, the forgetfulness, the clumsiness, the sleepiness and extreme laziness that I felt. Had they also gone through the same, or was there something wrong with me?
As the pregnancy neared the end, I asked them about their birth experiences, and if they, too, had felt anxious about labor, and how they had dealt with this fear. It always felt better having their support in my journey to motherhood.
Then my son came in April 2011. That was when it really dawned on me that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Motherhood comes with no manual, and new motherhood can be completely confusing and overwhelming –especially if you don’t have a good support network.
My mum, mother-in-law, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends were on my speed dial as I asked them hundreds of questions a day. Then there was also my paediatrician, too, who thankfully, would also always offer the expert bit.
When I started my blog, Mummy Tales, at home in Kenya, it was about my own motherhood chronicles, but as my readership grew, my inbox would be filled with pregnant women and new mums asking me the same questions that I, myself, had asked when I was in their situation.
And the more my blog grew, the more women wrote in about their experiences with fertility struggles, miscarriages, still births, neonatal sepsis and more. Some I would answer, while others I would get the answers from doctors then share the responses with my readers.
With time, readers began sending me their experiences, asking me to post on my blog for the benefit of fellow women and mums.
This exchange of information enriched me too, and I realized that many women had undergone unfortunate pregnancy and childbirth experiences because they lacked adequate information. I remember one woman who had lost her pregnancy at 25 weeks due to high-blood pressure issues.
“It was only after I saw a story on your blog about a young woman who had died from eclampsia that I came to understand that I had actually been lucky to survive. In my next pregnancy, I paid more attention to everything I was going through, religiously attended all my antenatal clinics and paid attention to my pressure and urine levels during each visit, unlike before. I also became very keen on unusual swelling on my face, hands and feet. This time round, I asked the nurses many questions unlike in my first pregnancy. Even though I still developed pre-eclampsia again, I knew both my baby and I would survive because I was more informed. I was put on medication until the end of my pregnancy, and delivered a healthy baby. Thank God I had become more knowledgeable because of the article I read on your blog,” she told me.
Some of the most common questions I receive on my blog are about the warning signs in pregnancy, foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy, how to prepare for the birth experience and how to generally maintain a healthy pregnancy. I also get lots of questions about breastfeeding, weaning and baby’s nutrition. The answers I give come from my own personal experiences, the experiences of fellow readers, as well as the input of experts.
My blog today is an information hub with real-life practical experiences of motherhood. The ‘tales’ are relatable and as an online community, we are raising our children together, learning together, saving lives of both, mothers and children, and raising healthy babies together. My goal is to ensure that women and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth, and that mothers go on to enjoy the blessing of motherhood, by putting authentic information in their hands.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Kenya of Mummy Tales.
Photo credit to the author and World Moms Blog.
I have loved Portugal for nearly my whole life. I first came here as a little girl for summer holidays with my parents. I can still remember the dry heat of the Portuguese summer, the ice-cream from the beach stalls that was never quite frozen, and the delicious pastries in the cafés. I’ve been coming back to the same city, the same coastline ever since.
The result is that, although I’ve only been actually living in Portugal for over a year, I sort of feel like a local. Take me anywhere in Portugal today and I’ll probably find the place imprinted somewhere in my memory, even though I thought I’d never been there before. I can go to the same ice-cream parlour I went to over 20 years ago and order the same flavour. There are family photos of little me sitting at the top of the farmer’s market steps just like my son does today. No wonder Portugal feels like home.
And then sometimes it is jarringly obvious that I’m not from around here. My Portuguese accent is from Brazil; sometimes I even still have problems understanding the local pronunciation. In the summer, most shop-owners think I’m an English tourist on a week’s holiday. I don’t vote, I’m not up-to-date with Portuguese politics and have no idea what’s on Portuguese TV.
But my most glaring lapse is that I don’t have any Portuguese friends.
It’s not by choice. The local expat community welcomed me with open arms and I simply haven’t had to look elsewhere. In Brazil, you could basically count all the foreigners in the city on one hand. Outside of the big cities, people would look at you funny if you spoke English. Waiters at restaurants would often confuse England with America, London with Miami.
Here, playgroup alone includes mums from Sweden, Germany, the UK and Holland. On Saturdays the organic market is full of French and German people. There are English, American and German schools up and down the coast and nobody blinks an eyelid when you say your child is bilingual.
On the one hand, it’s lovely to be part of such an eclectic international mix of people. In some ways I feel more at ease with other nomads like myself, who know what I’m talking about when I mention living out of boxes or moving every couple of years. But I worry that I’m missing out on the real Portugal. Did I really move here just to buy Waitrose tea at the supermarket and chat about the weather with other Brits?
Of course it’s lovely that I can buy peanut butter and proper English tea bags at the supermarket, but shouldn’t I be experimenting with local ingredients?
At the playground it sometimes feels that there is a bit of a “them and us” mentality between expat and local parents. Of course it’s difficult to mix when you’re not sure if the expats speak Portuguese (many of them don’t). Different attitudes to parenting don’t help: most Portuguese parents look aghast when I let my son splash through puddles without shoes or climb the slide – I in turn can’t believe they take their children to the park in such beautiful clothing (the washing! the ironing!). I wish it weren’t so. I don’t want my son growing up in Portugal but not a part of Portugal.
Since I’ve had no luck sidling up to Portuguese mums in the park, I’m trying to find other ways to connect with my community. A couple of weeks ago I bought a bus pass – what better way to get to know the neighbourhood than via the bus route? Plus, there’s always a friendly pensioner looking to chat about the weather.
Are you an expat or a local in your country? If you’re from abroad do you find it easy to mix with the locals?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie of Portugal. Photo credit to the author.