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Evacuating one of the Charlotteville, VA  car crash victims
Evacuating one of the Charlotteville, VA  car crash victims

The day before I graduated from high school, at the oldest coeducational private school in the USA and a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) one, my parents honored me by a fantastic breakfast and lunch. Then they drove me to school for one last night to sleep there, where I’d boarded for three years, because people from my class were allowed. (Except for us, the dorm was empty, was eerily silent and devoid of life.)

It was a bit bitter-sweet as a last night there, but also bitter-sweet since I had no friends in my class. I only had ones in the class before me and the class afterwards.

However, I had no plans to be alone that night in my empty dorm wherein the only children there were from my class. I’d made my own arrangements.

One of my really good friends was the cleaning lady for my dorm. Every day, she mopped the floors for one of the four halls on two levels, cleaned the bathrooms, dusted, cleaned one of the four kitchens, cleaned the common room and the porches, and did laundry.

I was part of the laundry list since my bedding could not go out to the laundry company since I was allergic, it was discovered by the school nurse, to the harsh detergent used in its soap. So the maid washed my bedding in the dorm with gentle detergent.

So we’d gotten quite close through getting to know each other due to her initially helping me with the bedding. And I liked her a great deal!

Anyway, our plan was that I was going to her home that evening when her husband – a skinny small black man in his forties – was going to pick her up in their one family car after work. He always drove up to the back entrance of the door, which suited me just fine since Mrs. Calpern, the dorm mother around eighty years old and with poor eyesight, had her apartment on the other side.

When he arrived, I ran like heck to the car’s back seat and laid down so that nobody would note me exiting the school. Then we drove to a grocery store deep in the heart of the black-skinned region of Poughkeepsie, NY.

So my girlfriend, her husband and I decided that it would be really fun and funny if I, a white- skinned platinum blond of eighteen years pretended that her husband and I were married while in the store. So I slipped my friend’s wedding band on my finger and then the humor began.

Holding his hand, I dragged him to the cake mix aisle and said that I wanted to make him this very special cherry cake for dinner since I loved him so much. Then he dragged me to the meat department and said that he wanted to make me a special chicken meal since I am a good wife.

This hilarious banter went on back and forth as we tra-la-laed up and down aisles. You cannot imagine the expressions on people’s faces as they saw us, especially in the check-out isle.

Ha-ha, I could barely contain my mirth. Then my friend’s husband and I had a jovial time telling his wife of our experiences. She had waited in the car the whole time.

At their home, even deeper in totally Black person territory, I made the cake and helped fix cole slaw and potato salad. I also did something else.

You see, this cleaning maid, who was more than a mere cleaning maid, and her husband were considered pillars of goodness, strength and power in their community. So anytime that anyone had any sort of trouble, s/he dropped their children off to the home of my friend and her husband to raise them until s/he’d be able to get back on his or her feet again.

So they would raise other people’s children in their home with loving care. And I met one of these people, whom they’d help to raise.

He was nineteen and a year older than I. I pierced his ear for an earring. I knew the way to do it in a sanitary and painless way since my sister had done it for me when I was sixteen. Accordingly, I also knew about it and aftercare to prevent infection.

He was a very nice young adult with an open face and a gentle nature. He was a joy to meet.

While I was doing the task, my girlfriend was cooking the chicken. Boy, did she know the way to cook chicken since she was from the Deep South.

Then her husband, who’d also helped in the kitchen, she and I grabbed an old blanket and the food. We went to a park on the Hudson River where other families were picnicking and playing.

Trust me when I share with you that I was the only white person for miles around this site. Yet no one batted an eye at seeing a white kid on the blanket of this beloved and respected family.

Indeed People came up to talk to my hosts and me. Moreover, they treated me with great tenderness and interest. So I felt honored as we ate and watched the sun go down over the Hudson River with our visitors coming up to us.

Then we went back to the humble small home and I wanted to wash the dishes, which I did while my friend and her husband discussed racial and other important issues with me. It was an eye-opening experience for us all, especially since two of my friends (for which one was murdered) were Freedom Riding and I told about their experiences. The Freedom Riders, Then and Now | History | Smithsonian, Andy’s Story – Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Then my friend and her husband took me back to my dorm. I again laid down on the back seat and, then, rushed with fast running legs to the dorm. It was about ten o’clock and I went to sleep peacefully in my dorm room for the last time after which I awoke the next morning with a big smile on my face to face my graduation day.

Now do you want a great time, too, like the kind that I just described? If so, I recommend that you arrange to go to the home of another family – one not of your racial, cultural, ethnic, nor religious group.

Rosemerry, in the message below, writes about people whom I’ve helped. Trust me I have been helped way more than I have been helpful, but it is only because I get to know people, who are willing to take me into their fold despite that I am religiously, racially and culturally different.

Sally, if most people were like you the world would be a different place! I am just reading historian Nancy MacLean’s book “Democracy in Chains”, about James Buchanan, Charles Koch and others who have gone out of their way to ensure such cooperation, care for others, sharing, understanding, acceptance do not happen, and the political situation in the USA (and India) seem to be on the selfish, “all for me” track. Good luck to you and all those you have helped. –rosemerry

I’ll be frank: We can’t have any more of this sort of incident:

beef-lynching

I’ll repeat myself now.  We can’t have any more of this sort of incident. I don’t care whether it is in Rwanda, India the USA in Charlottesville, Virginia or elsewhere located.

 no-place-for-hate

Recommendation: If you harbor any fear or hatred toward a neighbor of yours because he or she seems very different from you, then go have a picnic with him or her. I can all but guarantee that you WILL feel different in your views after the experience. Why, you may even have an exceptionally fabulous and time-enduring memorable time as I did with my host family at aged eighteen!

Sally Dugman is a writer from MA, USA

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    If people enjoyed mixing with others irrespective of race, religion or gender and helped each other the world would have been a better place! If the dictum ‘ all for one and one for all ‘ were a reality, there would have been no wars.
    Hopefully, this lovable incident shared by you would wake up at least a few youngsters and question divisions in society ! Sally thanks!