Every time I take the path between the Parkway House and the Tuck House, the two outposts of QC Family Tree in this West Charlotte neighborhood, I find newly-ripe blueberries on the large, lush bushes planted by Mt. Hermon Baptist Church in 2013.
I always take a handful and eat them one by one as I walk. The spice of the warm, ripe, fresher-than-fresh berries lingers on my tongue long afterwards.
Likewise, I find that each day here brings small moments to savor. A young artist attending one of two monthly Community Meals happens to sit down next to another neighbor who, she learns, is also an artist. Before long, they are exchanging poems and Facebook addresses.
A young man walks into Midday Prayers and is warmly greeted by name. “We haven’t seen you in a while. “ So much is conveyed in those few words: We know you. We see you. You matter.
A staff member strikes up a conversation with a young man who’s come in for the lunch served almost every weekday about his post-high school plans. When he shares his plan to join the military to pay for college, she lovingly and firmly encourages him to expand his narrative about the possibilities before him.
Another young man at lunch is awarded a Life Point by an observant summer intern who notices him taking the initiative to clean up a mess not of his own making. He’s earning his way into a space on the Big Trip later this summer and learning life skills to boot.
A young scholar at Freedom School, acting out a bit in the morning Harambee session, is redirected by an intern who comes and offers her a hug and then stands beside her. Together they join in the infectious singing and chants. The young scholar frowns at first and then finally smiles, unable to stand against the relentless affection.
Another young Freedom School scholar, a boy with developmental delays, grows confident enough to speak up and offer a Recognition in front of the whole group.
A group of young men, amongst the oldest of the scholars, at an age when they might consider themselves way too cool for such fun, join in the chants, the songs with hand motions, the silly and serious daily rituals. They show as much enthusiasm as anyone in the room.
I gather and savor these scenes daily, each one small enough to escape unnoticed; each one warm and lingering like fresh fruit on the tongue as we cultivate community for the common good.
LeDayne McLeese Polaski, a long-time supporter of Active Hope ministry partner QC Family Tree, is working part-time this summer as the organization’s Administrator.