I read an article recently about how when African-Americans of my generation achieve some measure of success our lives are vastly different from our majority counterparts. Often, we are the first in our family to graduate from college and work in a professional environment. There were many sacrifices made on the road to reaching such milestones. We revel in our new lifestyles. However, we are sometimes the ones who step up financially when things occur in our extended family which can only be resolved by providing financial assistance such as helping with college expenses, chipping in for medical procedures, coming up with money for housing, cars and other essential living expenses. My friends and I talk about this and, even though it may impact our personal finances, we all feel tremendously blessed to be able to help and absolutely know that, but for the unwavering support of our families, sacrificing for us, always believing in us and cheering us on, we would never have achieved the level of comfort we now enjoy.
However, another inescapable reality for us is that, while sometimes chipping in financially may be a struggle at times, it pales monumentally in comparison to the helplessness we all feel when a loved one has more serious problems which can’t be readily resolved by managing an expense. Sadly, all too common is the reality that at any given time if I randomly gather up ten friends, most if not all of us have at least one family member that has been incarcerated or is currently in prison or jail.
Such is my reality today. I got up this morning and rushed to attend a meeting. In my role as a board member I serve with other volunteers as we attempt to regulate policies which benefit citizens throughout our state. I left that meeting rushing to get tickets to a concert that a group of friends and I plan to attend. The number of tickets needed was large; the purchase could not be made online. I needed to go to the box office. Those two tasks, along with a later meeting that evening, were my pressing priorities for the day, until my phone rang. It was a family member. When I answered I told her that I needed to finish my purchase, and would it be ok if I called her right back? She answered, no that’s not ok. I could hear trouble in her voice. My stomach turned. I learned that another family member, whom I love dearly, had been arrested. As a family, we knew this day would one day come as he has been making some questionable moves with his life. We have pleaded with him for years to make better choices. In his defense, he has always wanted what we all want: A better life. His problem is he is bright and unable to accept that while others may get to take short cuts, that rarely works for us. As I sit here with my mind racing, I long in the depth of my soul for the times when simply writing a check or wiring funds would make it all go away. I'm praying.