Several years ago I was a “big sister” with the Big Brother/Big Sister program in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I proudly carried that title for more than five years for one of the most life-changing little girls I’ve ever met. During one of our first outings together, which had to have been way back in 1997, I asked her where she wanted to eat. I had big plans in mind for us to dine on something tasty and a bit fancy. With a twinkle in her eye that rivaled the stage lights at a Beyonce concert she hollered, “Chick-fil-A!” Now, I’m a fan of Chick-fil-A, so please don’t get me wrong, but Chick-fil-A was an everyday thing for me and my thoughts were of a few nicer places where we could enjoy, relax, be treated royally and be exposed to the finer things in life. So I questioned, “Chick-fil-A?” She replied, “Yep, I’ve never been there. I’ve heard it’s real good, and I always wanted to go, but I’ve never been outside of Bessemer, except to come to West End.” Y’all, my heart broke as I heard her words, felt her sincerity and was instantly humbled by what I’d been exposed to and had come to take for granted.
Again, no tea, no shade, no diet lemonade on Chick-fil-A. I “heart” Chick-fil-A, but there is so much more in life to discover other than what we are familiar with, what others have exposed or limited us to, what makes us comfortable or where we think we belong. And if the thought of broadening our horizons frightens us because it’s not what we’re accustomed to being that’s all the more reason to be broadened. So, on that Saturday, my “little” and I cruised down Highway 150 in my champagne colored Nissan Maxima with the sunroof open and we made that transitioning journey from Bessemer to Hoover (her first time in Hoover as an 11 year old), and we went to Chick-fil-A. She was in big signs, fast traffic, waffle fry heaven. From that day on, I purposely sat out to show her and share with her more and more and more because she deserved it. She was completely down with it. Over the course of our sisterhood we travelled. We visited local sites. We learned new things. We learned the history behind old things. We met new people. We even dined different places, some with fru-fru black or white table linen napkins because I wanted her to know she belonged at the table. We “turned up”, in a strategically planned, budgeted, and cultured kind of way, of course.
Fast-forward several years to today. I’m not sure what happened to my Big Brother/Big Sister little sister after she became ill and moved. I think about her often though, certainly during times when I question whether I belong at “the table”. I don’t mean the literal table, as I have no problem pulling up there. I mean more of the figurative table representing anything that’s new, scary, exciting, forecasted or unfamiliar for me, especially when it comes to business or civic matters as a woman regarding what I have to offer and what I deserve to receive. I reflect on how my little embraced all that was new until it became a part of her expectation. Never once did she put up a fight to stick with what was as if what was was the only way for her.
I was having a chat with one of my best friends as we were discussing events. The topic of women being worthy arose. We both concluded that as women we are all worthy. It’s as simple as that, or at least it should be. Often it isn’t. It’s up to us to support one another and surround ourselves with others who can expose us to more until we make it to where we have belonged all along. Then it’s up to us to turn around and do the same thing for a “little sister” so to speak.
Sometimes life’s challenges, status changes, insecurities, financial barriers, unwise choices, educational and career obstacles and personal obligations would dare us to believe that Chick-fil-A is as good as it gets for us. Again, no tea, no shade, no diet lemonade, but we belong at the bigger tables too, whatever that table may be, however fancy or frightening it may be, and regardless of whomever has already been seated. Women, we belong at the table. As a matter of fact, scoot over and make room for me in a comfy chair at the head of the table.
I first typed this two years ago in the unexpected throes of a season of change. Not much has changed since, except my attitude toward an even more increased sense of certainty that regardless of what was lost, given or taken in our lives things will get better. Still I declare, “You can bounce back and it will get better!”
From whatever has hurt you, disappointed you, caught you off guard, altered your plans, broken your heart, or shocked the stew out of you be certain that better is always an option. How will it happen? I’m not sure. When will it happen? I don’t know. Will the better that comes after the bad last? I can’t guarantee. Will it be worth it. YES!
While it may not feel like it now, like a $2 ball from the center bin of your local Wal-Mart YOU can bounce back. I believe you won’t just bounce back you’ll bounce forward, faster, and further. Just hang in there, my friend. Hang in there and be ready for the bounce back! #GetYourBounceOn
I know some of you immediately did as I, and started humming along to the song by R&B superstar Aaliyah (RIP) when you read the title. Oh, how I wish the concept of age could be as melodic and sappy-sweet as the catchy little 90s tune Aaliyah belted out. But sadly, it’s not.
Age is one of those things that’s tricky to point to, and pin down from person to person. You just never know, based on a person’s life’s experiences, exposure, course of growth or path of healing why they do what they do or how they don’t seem to know any better. I often hear, or have said things like, “she’s old enough to know better”, “I’m too old to be going through this”, “I’m old enough to be over this by now”, or “If he/she/ acted his/her age things would be better”. Prince even said, “act your age mama, not your shoe size.” (I just threw that in for laughs!)
Age, however, has taught me that it ain’t nothing but a number. There’s a story that’s probably much deeper, or sometimes darker than we can possibly imagine that explains, not necessarily excuses, why a person is the way he or she is. Expectations, based simply on how long a person has been on earth are unfair, unrealistic and often unmet. It takes more than the passing of years and blowing out birthday candles to grow, know, learn, heal, adjust, adopt, adapt, trust, change and learn to maintain. It takes wisdom, love, sound advice, patience, persistence, prayer, support, different actions, new reactions, culture shifts, environmental changes, mentors, make-overs, a little bit of kicking, possibly a whole lot of screaming, and a final surrender to the thought of deserving the best and doing whatever to receive it.
So the next time you think of holding yourself or someone else hostage by your “ought to be this or that by now because of age” assumptions don’t. Don’t lower your standards, but do increase the empathy, the prayers and even the support if you can to help. Trust me. You’ll do yourself and others a big favor when you do, because after all, age ain’t nothing but a number.
(Now carry on with your hum along…)