For most of my life I’ve kept a mental oasis where the rainbow of life appeared to end. My particular happy place was our local F.W. Woolworths, a land of endless merchandise with an enchanting candy counter complete with metal scale and crisp white paper sacks.
Growing up there was such happiness with my mother walking down those aisles. To this day I still remember the last row of shelves on the left, where toys blended into the pet department – ah Little Kiddles or tiny green turtles with plastic bowl and fake palm tree! Too bad all choices in life weren’t as innocent.
Particularly memorable for me was the candy counter, partitioned and marked off in glass sections of colorful delights waiting to be weighed and poured into white paper bags. Yes those treats remain memorable, down to the last sugared bite and soft worn paper. As a child and later as a teen able to walk there unaccompanied, Woolworths was my freedom, my independence and where I bought many a secret item known only to myself.
I was someone special when I went there – it was liberating!
As I grew up, the significance of this retail trek with my clandestine coins took on new meaning after I digested events of the world around me. It was then I was left with a taste in my mouth not as sweet, but an odd conviction in my soul confirming who I was … before I even knew it. You see I was born February 6, 1960, the same day four black college students, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond and Ezell Blair, sat down at a “whites-only” lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. Later that day, more than 1,400 N.C. students voted to continue the protest and they filled every seat as the store opened. By noon more than 1,000 people had packed the store. They sat at the lunch counter weighing their options and waiting to be served and there was nothing sweet in actions of those around them. That juxtaposition could not have been any more black or white – here I was coming into the world in the warm and secure confines of a hospital, weighed no differently than a future purchased bag of colored jellybeans, and anticipated every bit as much. However, across the country people every bit as deserving were also waiting to be accepted for who they were, sitting unwelcomed, insecure and alone.
The day my first child was born the MGM Grand hotel burned in Las Vegas. I remember holding her in my arms as the television shocked me with images of flames and lives forever changed. Holding that small, perfect and loved child in my arms I only wanted the best for her, prayed she’d never know disaster and dreamed of the life we would share – and I wanted to raise her as I had been, seeing people through their heart and soul, only using their words as a map if necessary.
Looking back in life we can see what circled around us at any given time, how our own importance is just a spark against the flames of life and death, many of us never connecting more than a few dots before we die, hoping we did something to be remembered. However, it should be the one thing we do each day, to see where we fit into the world no matter how minor and make a moment that counts. For some people there is a need to pay it forward – something I just call doing the right thing, however it does allow a greater good on a small scale and who knows what we might put into motion. A comment on a Face Book page, acceptance of those in our life, an act of kindness on the street or a concern for a stranger may actually be why we are in this life and we don’t even know it – so why take the chance and miss it?
I know sharing a moment in civil rights history gives me nothing more than a date on paper, but it does in a private way confirm who I am and I’m proud of that – blessed how I was raised and how I raised my daughters. There are always choices to be made in life, not unlike the aisles and aisles at Woolworths. We can end up in the back looking at animals, wander to the front and read magazines, visit the center of the store where the candy counter sits, or maybe just head to the right looking for shoes or a 45 record, which I recall cost $.59. After all, browsing through life is really all we do, eventually coming to a random judgment call – something we might wait to make or impulsively rush through. Regardless of the time we give it, it will always involve more than just ourselves and could actual serve a greater good if we do the right thing.
Why not make it a point to serve someone else? Don’t look at the menu of the day for details, offer something special and make it memorable for you both. There may not be a Woolworths left to walk through, but compassion is still around so don’t sell yourself short! Make a difference no matter how black and white the moment might seem. All that truly matters is you took the time to reach out share who you are and discover someone else, thus changing the course of that day in history.