Velma is an eighty plus year old black lady in Memphis, Tennessee. Every morning she gets up well before sunrise and meets her eighty year old friend, Annie, at their neighborhood bus stop. The two of them catch the first bus of the morning and head toward the commercial heart of East Memphis. They do this in the depth of winter and are always on the bus come rain or shine.
Shortly before five a.m. they are relieving the night shift at CK’s Kitchen on Park Avenue and Mendenhall. These two octogenarians comprise the entire morning shift at CK’s during which Annie does the cooking and Velma waits the tables. They may move a little slow, but you’d be surprised how quickly your order is taken, prepared and delivered, all with a smile and a cheerful demeanor.
One morning recently, I was finishing my breakfast and Velma was refilling my coffee cup when I took the opportunity to ask her why she and Annie continued to work when I would have assumed that both of them qualified for one or more forms of assistance, not to mention, Social Security. Velma beamed a smile and said the both she and Annie had worked all of their lives and neither had any intention of accepting welfare, food stamps or any other handouts.
I commented that after putting in a full shift at CK’s every day, the two of them must collapse on the bus ride back home. Not so, she said, “we both go to our church and work with those that are less fortunate and need our help.”
I have to admit that this encounter with two very special ladies has made an indelible impression on me. I tend to make large sweeping generalizations about groups of people and Velma and Annie taught me that there are many exceptions to these widely held attitudes and that I should be striving to be half the citizen of either Velma or Annie. Maybe the Republic is in better shape than I thought.
Categories: As I Like It!
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