28 Jul Community Voices: “Sunshine and Community”
By Bellamy Shoffner
“Community Voices” is a series of blog posts to elevate community voices, especially those of people of color. We invited individuals, without stipulations or rules, to submit their writings and we paid them for their time. We wanted to offer this space for them to share a first person account of what the last six months has been like for them. We value their thoughts and ideas. The content in this blog post is a reflection of the personal and professional experiences of the writer. The views and opinions of the guest contributors are their own. To contact the author, please see the end of the piece.
A few nights ago, my sons and I were in our driveway playing a lively but technically inept game of basketball when a few over-sized raindrops turned into thousands of heavy drops, resulting in a sun shower. We pushed aside our first instincts to run inside to the same dry air we’ve been in for five months. We didn’t see lightning or hear thunder, so in the rain we stayed. The rain was a refreshing and a welcome respite from the long summer days of intense heat. I kept shooting baskets while my children ran circles around me, chasing each other as the rain drops settled in as beads of water upon their hair. Round and round the children went, laughing at each other and trying to snag a drink from the downpour. Their giggles and smiles were contagious. Moments like this, when fear disappears and all we are left with are gigantic smiles on our rain-soaked faces, are moments for which I have fought. During the dissolution of my marriage, they are the moments I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again. These are the moments that our community has unfailingly helped to protect and sustain with unending support.
Community in the context of a pandemic is community transformed. Typical intervention methods changed and access to the people who help us the most was altered. Community for a single Black mom in the midst of a civil rights uprising is fierce and significant. I’ve found relying on community while the world reckons with both of these things together to be an absolute imperative. It’s not hard to be overwhelmed by fears for my Black family as we are endangered at every turn by disease, by society, and often a mix of the two. Sometimes it seems there is much more cloud than sun in this life but friends and community have always helped me remember the warmth of sunshine.
“Can I bring you and the kids dinner?”
“Can we drop off groceries for you?”
“Is there anything you need? Please let me know!”
“Can we bring birthday decorations for your boy?”
“Choose your favorite place and I’ll have lunch sent over.”
“Can I come over for a distance chat outside?”
“Would your sons like some new books to read?”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m thinking of you.”
“I can only imagine how hard it is, can I help by…?”
Each of these phrases is a ray of sunshine, a deep breath of rain-cleansed air, a reminder that with a true and thoughtful gesture one person can completely alter the path of another’s day, or week, or month. Each of these phrases is a definitive way to remind a single mom who has been parenting alone and around the clock for hundreds of days, that she is absolutely not alone. She is not forgotten, she is not unloved, and although her children have run literal and figurative circles around her, she is doing her best and that’s worth celebrating.
Human and Universal Needs
In many ways, I may be among the most vulnerable in society. But, these needs—for reassurance and assistance, the need to not only be heard but to be valued and respected, the need to be given aid without any expectation of reciprocation—are human and universal. They are the needs of every involved parent whether partnered or single, whether in financial disrepair or not. The way the basic needs for support and acknowledgement are met may differ across demographics, but their importance traverses all.
During this undoubtedly unfortunate time, I have been fortunate to be socially-distanced yet surrounded by creative and kind friends who’ve thought of interesting, helpful ways to provide the sunshine my family needs. My community has held us up in tangible and valuable ways for which I will always be grateful. During the pandemic, there has been no organized meal train or email chain for my family, just a number of concerned and committed friends showing up when they instinctively knew they were needed.
A few nights ago, when my sons and I were happily playing with both sunshine and raindrops washing over us and for the first time in a long time, life felt simple and beautiful. But a few months ago, my sons and I were learning how to be a trio instead of a quartet, under the cloud of the pandemic which has amplified every worry, sorrow or frustrating feeling of our familial transition. Those months were messy and almost impossible. In part, the strength of our community saw us through. It is my hope that during this time, those who are able, who have resources, who have time, money, connections… those who have direct and clear access to hope, will genuinely reach out to those who have little and offer those resources and solutions to even life’s most basic problems.
When you ask, “Can I buy you dinner?”
I think: So I can spend a little more time playing in sun showers and enjoying my children, the loves of my life?
“Why, yes, I would love nothing more.”