“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.”
I was sharing emails with him yesterday, and he wished me a Happy Thanksgiving, and I did the same to him, and I asked him how his spirits were, with the holidays and no chance of a traditional meal with family. He said that all was well….that life was good…and he was volunteering down at the Shelter and would be serving meals to the homeless on Thanksgiving Day.
Years ago, shortly after I graduated from college in 1970, I signed up for VISTA, a government program established to combat poverty in the United States. I was sent down to the Bayou country of rural Louisiana, and there I worked with a team to improve literacy among the poor Blacks in the area.
The word “poor” does not adequately describe what I witnessed during my time down there. One-room shanties, no heat, no running water, ten or more sleeping in the one room, even that does not describe the level of poverty I witnessed. The volunteers, of course, were from middle-class families, almost always white, doing their humanitarian thing for a year or two, and then returning to the comforts of their homes. The Blacks we worked with were shackled by that poverty for a lifetime.
Amazingly, I was treated with respect and gratitude during my time down there. I was greeted each day with broad smiles, offerings of food, and each day ended with the volunteers sitting on the front porches of the poor, listening to stories and enjoying tunes played on the harmonica.
When my time came to leave, I was thanked profusely by those I had helped, and given small gifts of remembrance. Let me repeat: I was given gifts by people so poor they literally had no loose change in their pockets. I still have those gifts today. I have a flute whittled by hand from hardwood; I have a straw hat woven by Eloise; and I have a pressed flower that was given to me by a little girl whose name I cannot remember.
Those people were so poor they couldn’t possibly have any hope for the future, and yet they did. The thing with feathers was perched on their soul for sure, and it was singing tunes without words.
I am humbled by the people I have known in my lifetime, and I am oh, so grateful for having known them.
Written by B. Holland