“It will be an emotional journey but eye opener… I worked with Katrina victims and it changed my life forever. They really need someone like you.” – comments by Atlanta community elder Mary LaVonne Avery to my Facebook post during travel to Houston
The slightly ominous words of wisdom from Mother Mary above caught my brief attention when she posted them on my wall recently. I sensed that there was a deeper message for me to ponder, but I was driving at the time and allowed the prophesy to float through my mind without immediate analysis. However over the past couple of days as my journey has progressed on this mission to provide Help for Houston it is progressively dawning on me that while I am ostensibly doing this in service to others, it will also ultimately involve a journey within myself for some yet to be fully known revelation.
My reasons for believing this have to do with a chain of communications, consequences, and events that have occurred in my personal life since I committed to helping Houston directly. The most intense of these are related to the housing situation of my nuclear family as well as the imminent birth of our my fifth child. My eldest children (Kweku 4, Abenaa 2) and their mother Rebecca Jones were in the process of moving to a new place just as I was leaving Atlanta for this mission. I dutifully did my part of facilitating financial resources to make the move possible, as well as moving a large load of items to their new home. Nonetheless, there remained more to do as I left town to the chagrin of Rebecca. She worked it out but was bitterly disappointed that I did not prioritize this need of my own family over those of people I did not yet know in a city across the country.
Even more dramatic than the judgement call described above, Rebecca is full term pregnant and due to deliver our second girl and third child together at any hour her doctor determines is best. It embarrasses me somewhat to admit that this was not a planned conception, with Rebecca and I committed to close co-parenting but without an actual committed relationship between us (I have been married twice before, but not to this mother of my younger set of children). Due to different circumstances, I also missed the delivery of my last child with Rebecca as well (Abenaa). This is certainly an unintentional pattern, as I was very involved and present with the delivery of my elder children Kwesi and Issata. Somehow, I’ve made a duel set of choices that will make be absent once again for a most miraculous moment that a parent can experience.
On top of these two situations, I also experienced a text message-based exchange with several of my extended family members (a brother, nephew, and sister) yesterday related to the pending addition to me and Rebecca’s brood. After an opening remark of criticism from my nephew Donnell about my decision to be in Houston during the birth, my eldest sister Karen lashed out with a pointed attack accusing me of not having a proper “family” but only spawning yet another child outside of a marriage. As painful as this was, I fully expected this kind of judgement from some of my folks who are Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular. This assumption of the right to dispense moral verdicts has been par for the course with a number of my folks as a reflection, in my opinion, of an ugly underside in our family culture. I chose to shut down the text messaging app facilitating this dialogue rather than subject myself to any more of this invective and negativity.
In sum, my synthesized interpretation of all this is that Elder Avery’s foreshadowing that this experience will be an “emotional journey but eye opener” as well was already coming to pass. My feelings and those of Rebecca’s have certainly been put to the test already as a consequence of me coming to Houston in spite of compelling and ultimately competing obligations in Atlanta. It is my natural feeling to be present for the birth of my daughter and to support Rebecca through the challenge of delivery. As the true son of my mother Dolores, it is also my natural instinct to respond as I am doing now to the extraordinary devastation that has been wrought upon a community to which I once belonged. My willingness to supersede an automatic personal responsibility to embrace a discretionary “ability to respond” is very much an emotionally wrenching choice for me, but it is also a rational decision making process about Maat and the summum bonum of the situation. My heart and mind tells me that all lives do in fact matter in this case, that of my baby girl coming into this world as well as very vulnerable Houstonians already here.
Lastly, my eyes have been opened about what I am willing to allow in my life in terms of energy and influence. I love my sister Karen and even others who periodically appoint themselves with the right to weigh in uninvited about my grown ass man choices. While I deeply appreciate and respect her care of my Alzheimer’s stricken mother in particular, Karen or no one else has ever taken any action to care for my children or engage our supposed non-family from her ostensibly Christian position of moral authority. As I shake up my world by stepping out of my comfort zone to bring comfort to others, I am learning more about myself and others around me as well. I invite those of you interested to open your eyes as well to explore where family begins and ends. For me, I am both my brother and daughter’s keeper. Ase’?