Sometimes the universe presents you with a message you just cannot ignore. I once had a client many years ago who said in one of her sessions that she had needed a lesson in humiliation. I am not a fan of humiliation myself–thinking it has no useful purpose. I thought what she really meant was a lesson in humility. She described being out walking with her little dog and not having a poop bag and the dog pooped on someone’s lawn. The man who lived in the house came outside and yelled he was tired of people letting their dogs poop on his lawn and not having the decency to clean up after themselves. She took her dog home, came back with a bag and picked up the poop, went up to the door and in tears knocked and said she was so sorry and apologized over and over. I do not remember if he was gracious about her apology or not, but to her, she had “needed” some humiliation to remind her she was in no position to judge others for their behavior. After the trip to Itta Bena, I get now why she said humiliation and not humility.
I also am not in a position to judge others, but sometimes I still do. I was focused on my disappointment that there was no marker in front of this store that had been home to Ralph Lembo’s music store and where he had helped make history in recording Mississippi Delta blues musicians, and was frankly shocked at the new paint job. But first, look at how the store looked when I was there in 2018:
Peeling faded paint and an orange door. An apparently empty and unused building. I cannot determine when the restaurant was there. The Mississippi Department of Archives & History shows a photograph of the store (same yellow paint, but turquoise doors and a turquoise, pink, blue, and yellow Chevy’s sign taken in 2008. The building was for sale.
The fact that a group of young men rented the building, painted it, no doubt cleaned it up and did some repairs is really very significant. Instead of a vacant building, it is one that is useful and used, bringing income to someone and available for rental by others, according to the sign in the window. Commenting on the color of paint was not only judgmental, it was unnecessary. They are the colors of their fraternity–old gold and purple–and probably represent a noble purpose. My comments about absence and lateness were also judgmental and unnecessary. Anyone in a small rural community who is doing anything to keep a community alive and productive deserves congratulations and support. I cannot unsay it and no one can unread it, but I can acknowledge I was wrong and do my best to set it right.
My focus has long been on staying present and being here, and especially in the past year when we have all struggled with so much. Thursday was a day that was for celebrating Ralph Lembo and the community he lived in for most of his life. It was a day for celebrating the many people who helped make the blues trail marker a reality, and for the many people who continue to be invested in the small rural communities across America. Of course there are imperfect people in those communities, just as we are everywhere. And sometimes, the universe has to remind me that I am one of them. If you are one of the folks who read the post on the Itta Bena marker before I revised it, I hope you will accept my apology for leaving dog poop on your lawn. I got a bag and came back to pick it up as soon as I realized that as a guest in a community, I was out of line. On occasion, I still have to remind the tiger to lie down by my feet and I will let him know if I need him.