Holiday Empathy

Orande’s been shot.  Ok…  What hospital is he in?  I grew up in a place where people got shot.  I assumed that he was home in Boston and it was a drive by or some other type of mistaken identity.  He’d be ok.  “No…  He didn’t make it.”  Life stood still.  Orande was one of my friends who was not in trouble.  He was in school at Morehouse College.  We were in activities together because our parents feared that idle time would lead us to all the gang and drug problems rampant on the streets.  We would complain about how the good kids like us never got any media time.  How could he be killed by being shot?  “He was on his way to a study group and got car jacked.  He was hit in the back as he tried to get away.”  This was my freshman year right around Thanksgiving time.  That’s when we all would hang out at home.  I think about how I had punked out that summer before freshman year.  I had called him to tell him that I had a crush on him.  It was the first time I had to go to a funeral.  I couldn’t bring myself to look at the casket.

My sophomore year, I was in long island at my aunt’s house.  I get a call from my mother.  My grandfather had passed away.  We had been watching cancer make him a shell of himself for a while now.  It still didn’t make it hurt any less.  He was one of my ultimate cheerleaders.  He supported everything I decided that I wanted to do.  I remember everyone being so concerned when he came on a bus from Connecticut to New York to see me in my first play ever.  I hadn’t yet been told that he had cancer.  Caribbean families have an iron clad way of keeping things from the children.  I’d call him and tell him about something I wanted to do.  If someone was around he’d say”The boys and nem say 150.” I’d know that he was gonna give me $150 towards whatever I was up to.  He was the first man that ever braided my hair.  I am so blessed for all the good memories with him.  I felt like I was hyperventilating when they were going to close the casket.  This time I looked.  It was extremely hard knowing this was the last time I’d see him.

My grandfather transitioned right around Christmas time.  I started to get scared when holiday time approached.  What was it about the holidays that made people special to me decide that they were going to leave for good?  These were the first two losses I ever had.  They came back to back one year apart.  They hit with force.  Holidays were filled with anxiety not celebration.

Years have gone by without anyone I love passing around the Holidays.  However, this year, I’m acutely aware of the fact that Holidays are just not fun for some folks.  It may or may not have to do with the loss of a loved one.  It could be any number of things:  not having loving family and friends, not having enough money for food, not having adequate work, etc.  This year was my first Thanksgiving EVER not with my family.  I wasn’t sad about it but I could see how others could be very sad around these times.  I chose to serve meals at a church then had a laid back, small fun gathering of performer peeps.  So, if you are one of the blessed ones, take some time to remember the not so blessed.  It can be as simple as a prayer sent.  Send a status acknowledging this and not just pictures of bountiful plates of food.  Empathy is something we all can practice more of not just during the holiday but extra doses during this time can’t hurt.   In fact, I dare say, it might make someone feel a little bit better.  

Posted on November 29, 2013 and filed under Essence Revealed, Advice.