I commit you to God and to the word of his grace,
which can build you up and give you an inheritance
among all those who are sanctified.”
Acts 20:32 (New International Version)
When I was coming up, every summer there was a JTPA Summer Youth Program at the River Park projects to help kids twelve to sixteen from low-income families get work. They hired me at VoTech to be a secretary four summers in a row. The VoTech ladies kept asking for me back.
I had gold teeth, and I was loud, real ghetto fabulous. Cindy, one of the ladies, would say, “I don’t want to change you. You’re beautiful.” And every day the ladies told me they liked my outfit or whatever. One day, Cindy told me that I was doing great, but I had to learn how to be tactful.
“Nobody can judge me!” I bristled.
“Oh, no, it’s fine. But when you speak loud, people can look at that as you being angry. We know you’re not,” they’d say. They nurtured me and shaped me, but they proved to me first that they loved me.
Then I got pregnant at fourteen.
I did not say, “What am I going to tell my grandma?” I said, “What am I going to tell these ladies? I have let them down. They believe in me.” But when I told them, they didn’t turn away; they turned up their love for me and gave me my first sweet taste of grace.
My grandmother did not come to the delivery room, and when I came home with the baby, she went on vacation. She was hurt because she felt like with me it was going to be different. She’d only finished seventh grade and had to work in the fields and such. I was smart. I had drive. I was the one in our family sure to break out of the projects. She was bitterly disappointed.
Now I understand all that, but then, I was just crying, “What am I gonna do with this baby?” I called Cindy and all my VoTech ladies took shifts coming to help me out. They taught me how to cook my first meal. They showed me how to change the baby and how to make the bottles. They showed me grace upon grace even before I knew who God was. Shalonda Washington