A few days ago, I was scheduled to go home to Tappahannock for a long weekend to celebrate family birthdays, to plan an upcoming graduation, and to visit. Two hours into the drive, I learned that the birthday boy and girl both had the flu, and I turned around and headed home. Sorry people I love—ain’t happening. On the way back, I stopped by a produce market I frequent, picking up a couple of pounds of raw green beans, thinking they sounded exceptionally good; in reality, they just sounded like home—something I didn’t realize I was missing until I wasn’t going to be there.
The last week has been trying for most, if not all of us, and if I am being honest, the last year or so has been some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced. It’s taken a while for me to come out of my self-imposed isolation only to be confronted with one that is sweeping the world. Today, sitting at my table, snapping beans, I realized that I wasn’t just missing home. As I’ve spent the week making lists and plans and navigated long grocery lines and empty shelves, I realized I was relying heavily on the skills and the values that growing up in the rural South ingrained in me to work through this new world order.
As everyone complains about toilet paper and frenzied people, I can honestly say that I have seen some of the best in people this week. Strangers offering to carry someone else’s load when they didn’t have a grocery cart. People chatting in the aisles, exchanging suggestions of where to find items. Restaurants and friends offering food for those who need it, child care for those who crave it, and a laugh when we all deserve it.
Once the dust settled on the first round of closures and seriousness this week, texts started flying into my phone, and I began to reach out to friends in the area, ensuring that they had all they needed and reminding them that I am always available. If I learned anything from my family, it was that there was always room for one more at the table, and that is a value that I hold sacred in my own life. Soup can always use another cup of water; chicken can always be chopped a little smaller; and laps make good tables if you need to eat off your knees.
Everything I know about surviving hard times, I learned from my family. Yet, those difficult times were eased by the power of community and friendship. What we didn’t have, someone else inevitably did. People shared when I was growing up, and we shared in return. I’ve offered to ship more toilet paper than I can count this week, and I mean it. I was raised to believe that if you needed it and I had it, then it was my obligation as a member of my community to give it. The thing about it though was that most everyone else abided by those same rules. We were always in it together.
I am so very fortunate to have incredible people in my life who make the hardest of days a little bit easier. I was gifted a family—both biological and by choice—who have reminded me over the years and life’s bumps that I am never, ever alone. I promised one of them I was writing, just not for public consumption. The truth is that I’ve been afraid to write for the last year (sorry, Shannon), but I made a vow to myself today that maybe sharing in my experience will help someone with their own.
So I mean it when I say there is always room at my table. And by “table,” I mean the literal as well as the not so much. If I can help in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out. I firmly believe that if we all just remember that we are in this together, we are going to be okay. And if we are all okay, then I believe all the other bullshit just won’t matter.