Thankful for giving spirit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

On September 19th, I received a letter from eight Alabama senators challenging every senator to follow their lead and give $1,000 to the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina Fund.

Representatives were challenged to give $250.

The letter reignited a struggle within me.

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The struggle first blazed on September 10th, when I read about a press conference where the challenge was issued.

I would have felt better if every senator and representative had been invited to the press conference.

I also would have felt better had I received the letter before the media blitz.

A couple of days before I received the letter, I read in a newspaper that not even one of the remaining 132 members of the Alabama Legislature had responded to the challenge.

I knew in my heart that they had also struggled.

I decided to share the struggle.

I don’t know if the eight senators truly meant well or whether it was more a publicity effort to advance ongoing efforts to take over the Alabama Senate.

I want, however, to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As I talked to other legislators, I sensed the profound way in which the Katrina tragedies, nature-made and man-made, had impacted them.

As a result, each had already given.

Some giving was similar to my own but others were different.

That each had given struck me.

Some of us had already given monetary gifts that far exceeded the amount being requested.

Some had also given gifts in time or effort.

Some legislators felt so strongly that their giving should go directly to displaced persons in their area. They did not want it to go to the Bush-Clinton Fund that would be divided up among the governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to allot as they see fit.

A common concern was the implicit assumption that they had not already given.

There was no way for the eight senators to know many of us had already spanned the gamut of giving.

For example, they could not have known that I sent money grams so that some displaced by Katrina could travel to Selma from wherever they found themselves; that we provided the use of our credit card so others could rent a van to transport their families; that I gave cash directly to some of those displaced; and that my family provided personal housing for some.

There is no way the eight could have known that we legislators gave money through organizations.

I gave through the Calvary Baptist Church, the Black Belt Community Foundation, Alabama New South Coalition and Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Center (21C Center).

I personally wanted my gifts to go to the 21C Center because it housed up to 100 persons displaced by Katrina without assistance from governmental agencies or national relief organizations.

I saw the need and impact.

There is no way the eight could have known that we legislators gave of our time.

I gave several hours at my church working with women to receive, fold and organize clothing.

I gave of my time going through my closet gathering and delivering clothing so those large in size would also have something to wear.

I gave of my time by attending meetings to plan and implement relief efforts.

There is no way that the eight could have known of the efforts we legislators gave.

I gave by working with Ralph Paige of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to help provide food at 21st Century; by raising money for other needs; by helping counsel those displaced about jobs and other possibilities of life in this area; by assisting the staff at 21C in their struggles; and in various other ways.

There was no way for the eight to have known that we legislators spent time and effort and resources fighting to insure that those displaced by Katrina were afforded the opportunity to become integral parts of our communities rather than being forced into massive reservations comprised of small trailers.

Such may be easier for governmental management, but it will be harder for those displaced by Katrina and for the communities in which they locate.

As I talked to legislators, I found that their giving was so profoundly personal, they did not seek, need or desire public recognition.

I believe that is why we struggled.

However, as I thought about it, I realized that when people don’t see what we do, it is easy to assume that we have not done and then decide how we should give.

Finally, what I and other legislators gave pale in comparison to that given by so many everyday citizens.

I have seen it personally.

And there are no media stories chronicling their much greater gifts.

I am just thankful that so many have given from the heart when there is no way for me or you to know their giving.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday – I was still in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Harvard Law School Black Alumni Celebration.

Faya Rose and I shared breakfast with the following: Dr. Walter Leonard, the former Assistant Dean of Harvard Law School who we called the “Black Dean”; Pickney Andrews, an Alumni of Harvard Law School; Francis Pierce, a great friend from our years in Cambridge; Lelia Gordon, my sister; and K.C. Bailey, a friend over the years.

We then traveled to Providence, Rhode Island with the help of Sandy and Lelia Gordon.

We flew to Baltimore, then to Birmingham and drove to Selma.

As I traveled, I talked to various persons including Michael Tucker of Washington, D. C.

Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School, Radio Education and Sunday Review.

I participated in Sunday School before meeting over lunch with our Katrina-displaced friends and fellow community strugglers, Ted and Brenda Quant.

I worked on other matters including Sketches before traveling to 21C in Perry County to provide information about job and other possibilities for those displaced by Katrina.

Monday – I traveled to Sumter County where I talked with Gainesville Mayor Carrie Fulgham, Roberta Griggs and others.

I returned to Selma to consider entrepreneur efforts in a meeting with the following: Wallace Community College President, Dr. James Mitchell; Reverend Walt Higgins; Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr.; and Chamber of Commerce President, Claire Twardy.

I talked to George McMillian about Black Belt Community Foundation matters, did Finance and Taxation Education Committee work, handled matters related to persons displaced by Katrina and worked on Sketches.

Tuesday – I spent most of the day in my office talking to citizens, including special persons such as lobbyist John Teague, Legislative Fiscal Officer Joyce Bigbee and Victims Compensation Commissioner Barbara Brown, who is in a rehabilitation center.

I worked on matters related to the Finance and Taxation Education Committee, persons displaced by Katrina, and education.

I ventured forth for a two-hour and a half meeting called by Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr. with those displaced by Katrina, leaders of various relief agencies and organizations and the public.

I returned to my office for an ANSC conference call and to handle other matters.

Wednesday – I participated in a series of meetings and events including the radio program, A Public Conversation.

I talked to many citizens and leaders such as Senator Rodger Smitherman, Senator Roger Bedford, Mayor James Perkins, Jr., Dr. James Mitchell, Laddie Jones of the Greene County Democrat and Jim Farrell of Anniston.

I worked into the night.

Thursday – I did Finance and Taxation Education work and attended a series of meetings including one concerning the extension of I-85, another involving the Black Belt Action Commission, a third concerning education and a fourth concerning economic development.

I talked to various citizens/leaders including Dr. Paul Hubbert of AEA and worked on other matters including Sketches.

Friday – I continued writing Sketches and talking to various persons including the following: political guru Joe Perkins; the Governor’s Legal Advisor, Ken Wallis; Algie Brantley, a fellow church member now in the hospital; Legislative Fiscal Office Director Joyce Bigbee and Ralph Paige of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives who was hospitalized briefly.

I did various work related to those displaced by Katrina.

I also did fundraising and attended the Michelle Alexander Celebration.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes we are caught between a rock and a hard place: not wanting to publicize what we do from the heart and not wanting others to assume we are not doing.

When we are so caught, we struggle mightily.

I know such struggle.

So do others.