I’ve been hearing the word narrative a lot lately. I have one too. When I moved to the States in the mid nineties, I showed up at PDX with a green and black plaid suitcase in hand. Ken Reade, a giant of a man, drove me through the city and to the small town that has been my home to this day. I’d never been in a foreign country. I’d never flown in an airplane. There I was at 21 off to who knows where!
I grew up hearing of racial discord in the US and just expected some degree of it, chalking it off to human nature. Well, little did I know what awaited me…
That first Sunday, I went to a church with a small group of white people aged 340 each. When I walked on the sidewalks, whites looked me in the eye and smiled. Some even said halo. In class and in homes, they asked my opinion and considered it. A local white family with four young children and the single income of a teacher rented out a room to me. Do you know what Chris and Eric charged me? Every single extra penny I had! Which is to say, nothing. They met all my physical needs and treated me as one of their own. To this day.
I went through too many years of college and had to jostle my way through it like all the other white students beside me – passing and failing classes every step of the way. I was hired by a young family of two doctors to care for their babies. Dave and Cathy handed me the keys to their fancy cars and said I could go wherever I wanted. I had access to every room in their house. Dave told me one day, “There are some crazy people that live in those hills. If anyone ever gives you any kind of trouble, why you just let me know.”
I attended white churches where I was challenged and encouraged to grow and develop my gifts, especially teaching. Bev purchased my first little car and let me live with her for the same ridiculous amount of rent as Christ and Eric had. Mike offered to take me to buy a car and introduced me to the salesman as his daughter. He’d had me pull over before we got there and given me a pep-talk about what shenanigans they’d throw at me and how I was to respond. His wife Shari calls my children her grandchildren. None of these people EVER asked for anything in return – the gall!
Then I met a mountain man from them hills. (I think all mountain men are white?) He called me honey and took me fishing (a rather white sport, I think). Now my children call him father. His family has been nothing but loving towards me from the word go.
And when I started my elder care business, white people brought their dependent parents to my home and entrusted their care to me. One gets to know an awful lot of dirt on families and their members when offering personal care for residents. In twelve years of care-giving I have been treated with utmost honor and respect by every single one of my residents and their families except for two family members. (They had obvious problems that I’m not about to taken on as my own.) My white employees and the families of these residents will be family to me for the rest of my life.
I’m not sharing my experiences to discount those of anyone else. I could go into the incidents of being pulled over twice in my hometown for no reason at all. This was before I knew one could ask why they were being pulled over. I could go into driving with my father by a hick truck full of high school kids who screamed “Niggers!” I could go into all kinds of encounters, but today I wanted to tell you about these other white people.