Homeward Bound

Diversity is the only product of unity,
and peace is a by-product of Love,

the experience of a lifetime
that flows from understanding.
"Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being." --Mahatma Gandhi

Being in the Deep South and seeing a post on MLK that had the Gandhi quote on non-violence shared above, it seems worth taking a few minutes to share a couple of events and my overall experience here. In a few hours I’ll be checking out of the lovely Hilton Double Tree that our corporate travel agent booked me into for the final days of what has been a great trip.

First, Southern Hospitality is far more than a concept; it’s a true experience! Everything I’ve ever heard or read about it has been demonstrated from the first person to the last. The first understanding of this came several hours after I arrived, hit with the realisation that I was thoroughly lost, the consequence of driving far longer and later than I should have. I went inside a petrol station to get directions, and asked the young man behind the counter if he could please help. Let me tell you, if we could bottle the "Yes ma’am"’s and use it for fuel, we'd end the fossil fuel crisis right now. Putting the map in front of us, he asked if I could find ‘White Horse’ and I said "Let’s see if I can get my eyes to focus. I’m a bit too tired." As I spread the small map out, he apologized and my heart broke when he said “I only learnt to read numbers." From deep down came the words, “You know what, I love numbers. I work in mathematics and numbers are the universal language. Tell you what, you’re a lot smarter than you think you are.” The smile on his face and the light in his eyes lit the entire room, and my heart as he then wrote down every road number I needed to turn on to get to where I was going! Two bikers, obviously friends of his, opened both doors for me as I left, saying “Thank you ‘ma’am.”

The experience remains a clear reminder why education --the BeLonging Projects-- is the soul reason that focuses my heart and brain, the BeLonging Projects the true purpose behind the 'why' of this trip.

Now, for those who need food for thought and a laugh...

Returning to Atlanta on Friday, Saturday was spent running a few errands, and I have to say that I’m still processing these few hours. While my hotel is lovely, it soon became clear that I’m the visible minority in the neighbourhood. In the two hours that I was alone and on the loose, I was the only white person I saw. My first stop, to fill the gas tank, required me to walk past a dishevelled man who was sitting on the curb at the entrance to the shop. When he asked for a dollar, I said “No, but I’ll take you over to Chick-a-filet and have lunch with you if you’re hungry on the condition that you tell me your story.” He immediately agreed. Oh my goodness… His story will take days to process, and tragically, it’s genesis was also in the failure of the education system.

The next stop was to a nearby Macy's where the intent was to buy two new bras. Finding the lingerie department, I asked the woman for my brand, and after looking me up and down she asked, “Honey, do you know where you be?”

Laughing I said, “Well, when the plane landed the pilot said "Welcome to Atlanta.” She laughed and said "Sister, you are the first colour blind white girl I ever did meet. You ain’t gonna find nothing to fit you in this store, so here’s what I want you to do; get in yer car and get back to yer hotel and be safe. You can find underwear wherever you live. And remember, Jesus love you sweetie.”

Lynnclaire Dennis

The Mereon Legacy CIC, The Pavement, 3 The Pavement, Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR3 5BU , United Kingdom