Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

One year earlier you would of had to gag me, tie me up, and drag me away from the Garlette’s screaming and kicking, Caldwell, and pretty much all that I had ever known up to that point in time. My cousin Andre’ had managed to single-handedly bring about a most significant change in my life in record time. I would do anything Andre advised because I loved and admired him that much as the oldest male cousin and grandchild in our family.

While it may have taken me a couple of weeks to fully run deep into this new way of life, it had already begun to distort how I came to view remaining under the tutelage of a white family.

Regretfully, my departure from the Garlette household was not a respectful or sufficiently graceful one. I mistakenly expressed unjustified dissatisfaction with continuing to live under their roof and did so projecting a considerable amount of misdirected arrogance. I may even have uttered a few insulting remarks in the final hours as a member of their household. Shame on me!

It was a mean, hurtful and inexcusable thing to do. This is something that I deeply regretted throughout my life.

Many years later, I purposely visited with the Garlette household to thank them all for what they had done for me, the love that they provided to me, and to humbly ask them to please forgive me for my past unappreciative and disrespectful behavior. True to their good nature, they were immensely kind and willing to do so.  Mr. and Mrs. Garlette said that they never thought any less of me because they were able to understood how necessary it was for me as a struggling youth to eventually achieve a sense of my own identity. How about that?

More recently, I have been able to further express my love directly to Bill, Ed, James and John and I hope that Janet becomes equally aware of how much I shall always love and treasure the sisterly relationship that we shared for a time.

Upon moving into my new place of residence on Lincoln Street in East Orange, I discovered that I would be rooming with a much older gentlemen, Kaymu (pronounced ki-e-mu). He explained to me that everyone was responsible for maintaining the home and for that reason we would share the day-to-day chores based on a schedule of duties posted weekly.

I was expected to make my bed every day, do my own laundry every week, wash dishes, and to complete some of the outdoor seasonal maintenance duties of keeping the grounds looking their best. These were things that I already knew how to do and had previously done under both my Mother and Grandpa’s direction once I became 10 years old. So this all looked to me to be a real piece of cake. Certainly, nothing that I couldn’t handle.

There were no restrictions made on what school activities I could participate in as long as they did not negatively affect my grades. In fact, I was strongly encouraged to participate in school activities other than sports.  Some of the examples that were given to me  included the school newspaper, the student government, the black student union or possibly the school debate team.

Lastly, it was explained to me that Balozi as a UN representative regularly invited first time visiting foreign officials from other nations to his home, whereby he provided traditional dishes and festivities, transportation and security guard services on an as needed basis. As a member of the household, I would be expected to be present for all of these gatherings, to work at learning to speak Swahili and lastly to take self-defense training under the organization's Sensi who was also living there in the home.