Yesterday I broke routine to receive a phone call from someone to whom I had written a letter because of an article in the Post and Courier. Later his mother called to thank me for my letter her son had just read to her. I am thankful for the boundless opportunities provided by our reporters to step into someone else’s shoes and not only to be thankful for what we have in contrast but to make a difference in the lives of those in our Charleston community we read about in our newspaper.
Everyone feels compassion, the kindness of a stranger for victims of tragedy and life’s sudden reversals. Feeling compassion does not make you a compassionate person; it is acting on that heart tug that can make the difference. We think, how can I make a difference with my little mite, but if we follow through with that urge and mustard seed of an idea, we can change the course of someone’s day, and perhaps someone’s life.
I read the article on Mills Adams at Mars Hill College in the Sports section, to which I rarely turn. It was lying open on the kitchen counter when I came down to cook breakfast for the family and caught my eye with its title of “It Feels Like I’m Playing with Fire”. I learned that whites as well as blacks can carry the sickle cell trait as Mills does. He is living his dream of playing football for college, despite playing with fire with the risks associated with being a carrier of sickle cell.
I wrote him that I had a heart for those with this ailment from my association with the late Albertha Stokes, the beloved Gullah Flower Lady on the corner of St. Michael’s Alley and Meeting. Though her baskets were not the most impressive, I always encouraged my tours to buy from her because her heart was always in songs and spirituals. We loved each other so. She would bake me lemon cream cheese pound cake for my teas parties in appreciation, telling me after many years, that my support made a difference in the care she was able to provide for her daughter, who she said had “the sickle cellemia”. This daughter would eventual pass away before her mother and father.
I also wrote Mills that I would like to offer him and his family a complimentary tour of Charleston, enclosing a signed gift card for my tour business, which has always been my career.
He said I had no idea how much this letter and offer meant to him, that he was a history major, and though from the Charleston area, he had NEVER been in ANY historic houses of Charleston. He had always wanted to see inside some and learn the history, but he dared not even mention it to his mom, because as a single mom, he says, she trys so hard to make ends meet for her two boys, sacrificing her own needs.
When his mother called, she gave me a fleshed out picture of their challenges, struggles, and reversals. Just an encouraging word to let them know that there are those who care in Charleston meant the world. The Post and Courier article is what made this connection between us possible.
I want give money to either the Coastal Community Foundation or to St. Philip’s and designate that money be given to help this family this Christmas. The mom needs to buy a car as she does not have one at the moment. She also needs help with presents for her boys, one still home in highschool. There are no life’s extras for them. It will be a challenge for them to get to Charleston for my tour and for her son to get home from the North Carolina mountains for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with this mom, where there is a will, there is a way. She has moved mountains already for her children.
I do not pat myself on the back. There are many opportunities I intend to take and miss. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The important thing, I tell myself, is to act on the little that is on our heart to do and not to delay a day. Respond to that still, small voice only our heart can hear. We each can make a difference in being a city on a hill, whose light cannot be hidden, the best city in America. Carpe Diem!