Strong arms, shrewdness, and nurturing ways are prized virtues of the woman esteemed in Proverbs 31. I have always thought the quintessential virtuous woman is tireless, teaches in the church nursery and is in two Bible studies, one of which she leads. I conjure that she shows good stewardship when she respectfully sends her family’s outgrown clothes dry cleaned on wire hangers to the convenient clothes closet for poor people. In my mind, I am confident she and her husband join their friends to box frozen turkeys in care packages for the food insecure at Christmas, and with a righteous selfless bow she prays for the nameless people she sees to know Christ. She shops on Amazon Smile, which allows her to support her favorite charities. Her children call her blessed, because she sacrifices to send them to private schools and drives them herself before she maps out her day. Her husband praises her as well and together they circle their children around them in prayer every evening.
There is a concurrent version of the woman of Proverbs 31, and she is a more profound model of virtue for me. She lives in poverty in Orange Mound, usually with multiple with children whom she raises alone.
The virtuous woman of OM has had “the talk” about respecting the police if stopped with her sons. She has mapped the routes they should travel to avoid white neighborhoods. She has bought starched lacy dresses with matching bows for her girls to wear and raves over their pretty faces and braids their hair with ribbons and pearls. She saves much of her income to celebrate their milestones, and she breathes confidence into their psyches of their infinite worth, value, and dignity. If she has a car, it’s on life support. She has lived in a “food desert” and knows the cost of a gallon of gas to the penny and the price of milk when it’s reached the sell-by date. She can change a tire, replace her battery and fix a kitchen sink. She endures the personal frustration when the power is out in her rental and last to be restored in her neighborhood. She knows that with nightfall there are often gunshots, and she has taught her children to hit the floor.
Black and White American women have been living in parallel universes for several centuries. Egregious harms done to the powerless are finally being recognized, and the heat of the heartache is extremely uncomfortable for those of us who have been indifferent.
Very few fathers of the 100 plus children and grandchildren connected to our My Cup of Tea employees help with the kids physically, financially or emotionally. Our moms do it all. It is a very long day and a longer weekend for an employed single mom. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the layers of stress have thickened. The kids are home all of the time and single parent discipline, nurturing, economic security and now school tutoring fall on the tired backs of women before and after a day of work, if work exists.
I don’t know how they do it with a peace and a hope, other than the Lord’s own dear presence.
Some of us who volunteer at the tea company went to the I AM A Man Plaza last week to absorb the magnitude of the current wave of discontent and to gather to pray. I encouraged our employees to join in, but all were too tired, skeptical or too hopeless to go with us.
I AM A MAN PLAZA declares civil rights for all and a bold stand against oppression.Civil Rights laws made the “books” long before it occurred to most of us, that rights are rights no matter your skin color or what part of town you call home.
I want a plaza dedicated to these Wonder Women - truly the virtuous who do it all without complaint, without expectations and without losing hope.