The Entitlement of a White, American, Southern, Christian Girl

When sad or uncomfortable things happened to me, I was able to steady myself with retail therapy, lunch out with friends, dinner with family, a random tv show or movie. All sorts of “normal” things returned my mindset from anxious, grieving, disappointed or whatever, back to “normal” again. It was akin to the old bury-the-head-in-the-sand ploy and it worked fabulously. Without realizing it, there was an unconscious (or maybe not so unconscious) part of me that was thinking, “I’m a white, American, Southern, Christian girl. What could happen to me?”

Even this week, as my plane circled to land in Asheville, where the smoke from the forest fires was so bad the pilot was forced to take a couple of “go’s” at it, I was simultaneously pleading with God to get that plane on the ground, while reminding him that this, THIS, wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m a white, American, Southern, Christian girl.

Do I think God is impressed with this?

My oldest and dearest friend, Donna, died in July of this year from brain cancer. She was my age, and we were college roommates at Furman University. We met freshman year, the first day of enrollment, in our dorm room. That day began a lifelong friendship. You know the kind. The real deal together-through-all-the-bad-and-good-stuff-friendship.

Had I been Donna, my astonishment that this was actually happening to me, would have been off the charts. My astonishment that it was happening to my best friend was off the charts. God, I said, you can’t be serious. This is Donna, as in my Donna. As in, who am I supposed to talk too if Donna isn’t here? As in, we’re taking the grandgirls to the beach when they’re old enough (I have 3, she has 1 with 1 on the way–5 little girls and their grandmas). As in, she’s 57, not 87. We’re going to be 87 together.

I reminded myself that this was happening to her, not me, but God wasn’t hearing me. I’m so accustomed to my privileged and undisturbed life, I assume God will keep it going, though he may need a gentle nudge now and then. My nudging didn’t work, and I’m still trying to get my bearings in a world without Donna in it.

Circling in that plane, I reminded God I still had so much to live for, and I though I didn’t say it, I fear I implied it: Remember Lord? It’s me. The Southern, Christian girl? I don’t die in plane crashes. Things like this that don’t happen to people like me. Remember? (Just like brain cancer wasn’t supposed to happen to Donna.)

Then I read the news about the soccer team and the Columbia plane crash. Wow. Just wow.

My thinking is getting interrupted with reality. Donna did die, and I started following a 7 year old girl on Twitter (@AlabedBana), who is reporting live from Aleppo (via her mom), and last I read her house was in rubbles and she was trying to read Harry Potter to distract herself from her friends dying. She tweeted a picture of her dead friend, maybe age 4-5? I guess distractions do serve a purpose.

My Sunday School class thinks that the millennials don’t know hard work and believe everything should be handed to them. They refer to the millennials as a bunch of whiny babies. It’s a common topic. They feel certain Donald Trump will set those kids straight now that he is PEOTUS. (When he stops on whining on Twitter, perhaps?) I don’t follow their logic, but I’m not worried about it because I’ve got problems of my own.

My own entitlement has reared it’s embarrassing head, and yes, it involves a lot of whining. Disgust reigns.

Somehow, my thinking got very entitled. I believed that being me meant I didn’t go through what others do. And, in many ways, I don’t. I’m clueless as to what a 7 year old and her brothers do when their house is bombed. I’m protected from that, and I’m more grateful than I can say, but there was a time when I didn’t and couldn’t hear Bana’s voice. My lunches and friends drowned out her bombs, her friend’s dying and her Harry Potter books.

My plane did land, easily and without incident, but it could just have easily crashed. Why was I on the plane that didn’t crash when others were not? Why am I a white, American, Christian girl living a protected and privileged life who somehow fell under the delusional thought that I was entitled to it? Why didn’t I find it odd that some people went hungry, or without water, or that babies were born while wars waged over their mother’s heads? I didn’t find it odd because it wasn’t happening to me.

Here’s what happens when you raise your head and look around: The distractions cease to work. The voices are no longer murmurings in the background of life. They take front and center. The bombs seem like they are literally overhead, and you find yourself asking for courage to speak, to rail, to scream against all of it. You look at yourself and you no longer see a white, Southern, Christian girl. You see the world and everyone in it.

One Good Mama One Bad Mama

One Good Mama and One Bad Mama

This is a tale of one good mama and one bad mama. I am the good mama.

My youngest son works at our local Ingle’s running the U-scan. That’s a grocery store. He’s worked there for 2 years earning spending money for college. I was buying groceries, and I did what I always do, stop to chat at the U-scan, and give him money for snacks. He was helping a woman who looked to be in her early 30s, and she got confused when he said goodbye. Was he talking to her?

“Oh, that’s my mom,” he said. “I’m just telling her goodbye.”

“That’s your boy?” she asked me.

She had blonde hair, was smallish in build, and if life had been kinder to her, she’d be stunningly beautiful. But, poverty was spread over her like a ratty blanket, and the lines on her face were too old for someone so young, not to mention the missing three front teeth.

“Yes, he’s mine,” I said, smiling and shaking my head. My goofball son was cracking jokes with the managers.

“You raised a good boy,” she said. “He treats me with respect, and is always kind to me. Some days, I come here because nobody else is ever nice to me, and I know he will be. He makes people feel like they matter.”

She had my full attention now. I’d been sort of half-talking to her. and half-watching my son. Her eyes were big and blue with a hint of the little girl she used to be. I grabbed her arm. “What is your name, please?”

“Amy. It’s Amy. Your son. You raised him good. You raised him right.”

That’s my son, alright. His heart is tender toward everyone. Especially those who are poor, who are overlooked, ignored, discounted. Oh, the friends he has brought home. Like lost puppies.  I was so desperately proud of him right then that I had to call a friend and brag on him. I also hugged Amy and cried standing in front of the automatic doors, so they kept opening and shutting while I was hugging Amy and crying.

I work in a store, too. A garden nursery that high end clients frequent. We’re busy making custom wreaths and swags and centerpieces for ladies who are having huge Christmas parties this weekend or next. Ribbon flies out the door, made up into festive bows: Bows for valences, mailboxes, mantles, gifts, light posts and tree-toppers. I listen to tales of just returning from England, or Italy, or France, or wherever, while I hot-glue red berries onto Fraser fir. It’s fun to pick out ribbon and colors for the garland, and chat while making up holiday greenery.

Today, a lady, about my age, who’d just moved to our mountain city from London, England was doing what I’d done the night before–bragging on her son–a college student at Fordham University who’d just scored a job on Wall Street.

“One thing is for certain,” she said, “He won’t come here.”

“Oh, why is that?” I asked.

“The rednecks, the uncouth ignorance that abounds below the Mason Dixon line. It’s too much for him. It’s really too much for me,” she said as if she was not insulting me, my family and every friend I ever had.

Because I prefer to keep my job, I kept my mouth shut and did not say what good Southerners say in that situation, “The road that brought you here will take you right back. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

Just FYI before I carry on with my little tale of good mom/bad mom here: We Southerners do not care what you think about us. We never have.

Here’s what I wanted to say to her, even more than how she could find her way back to bloody England, one good mama to one bad mama, “You did not raise your son right. You raised him to be unkind, to be disrespectful, to shun others who aren’t his “equal,” and to look past the person and only see their circumstances.”

And if I had really gone redneck on her, I’d have said, “So, you raised a snobby little brat, did ya?”

I didn’t say any of that because we’re in a recession and I need a job. But I am saying it now because I am proud of my son, and his ability to see Amy, and not just her circumstances. I am proud that he knows everyone is deserving of his respect, and that kindness can make a person’s day better. It can make them feel like they matter, because whether you live above or below the Mason Dixon line, you do matter. We all do.

So one good mama to one bad mama: I am proud of my son who isn’t on Wall Street, but is on the U-Scan at Ingle’s helping folks like Amy feel like they matter. Really, in the big picture of life, does anything else matter?