“You owe me nothing!”
Have you ever heard that statement before in your lifetime? Many times, in my community I heard pastors, teachers, deacons, brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs as well as Big Mama say, “You owe me nothing”.” I have heard others tell me that they also heard that statement coming from situations of intervention, rescue and support given to a person, cause or community.
I recently remember an ally, champion and colleague of mine, Francesca Weems, declaring after our annual NABJ convention, “NABJ owes me nothing. Seeing my tribe after a three-year hiatus was everything to me. Reunited with old friends, met with new and former colleagues/clients for the first time, and continued to create memories and relationships that will last a lifetime. I laughed, danced, healed, celebrated and cried.”
Quora describes this statement as “I owe you nothing” implies that “you” do not owe me anything, nor are you obligated or bound to do anything, nor are you under duress to feel the way I do. It implies that the person speaking has no authority or special powers over the person spoken to. I do not have the leverage to demand the same level of affection. Let me remind you that Ms. Lucille, also called “Cille” by her 24 brothers and sisters, was my grandmother, Lucille “Big Mama” Allen.
And here are the influencers she built magic with – her three sons, three daughters, 16 grandchildren, 50 great grandchildren, 38 great-great grand-children, seven great-great-great grandchildren, along with a host of nieces, nephews, and bonus family members with her playbook.
This common-sense logic of Lucille “Big Mama” Allen, “You owe me nothing” resonates because during my lifetime under the protection and engagement of my Big Mama – I saw the phrase in action.
When Big Mama left her Sister Circle at church, she was informed of who needed rent money, who lost their job and who was hungry. Then she would put power in action. The sisters joined her! The kitchen was ablaze with amazing smells of pan seared meats, baked goods and more.
Then within hours, the backyard became filled with card tables, bingo sheets and playing cards with food and baked goods set on counters for sale. The community came forth. They came out and paid to play bingo. They purchased baked goods. At the end of the day, the community dropped loose change and crumpled bills in the pickle jar on the way out. That is when the real work began.
Big Mama would drop handker-chief-tied money in her bosom. She had 10-12 food baskets filled with amazing cooked foods, aswell as some basics like flour milk, oatmeal and farm grown eggs. Big Mama, with me and my siblings in tow, began visiting the targeted families and we delivered cash, food and hugs.
The recipients would cry and cheer as Big Mama presented them with things she said were “extra” and she needed someone to “take them off her hands” Every visit resulted in statements like, “Oh my God Mama Cille, what do I owe you?”
Her prompt answer was always, “You owe me nothing you blessed me with your acceptance.” She prayed briefly with them with this prayer-Bible says “Owe no man anything, but to love one another. . .” means the only debt we are commanded to acquire is love.
Not once did she allow anyone to feel they were receiving help. I loved delivering those Bosom Baskets and I learned that we must give to others and we should never feel entitled to our blessings.
If the rest of the country took that stance, we might not be battling re-districting, inclusion barriers, voting and productive rights. Just food for thought. WBU?
Thanks, Big Mama, Ok readers, can you empower the community you serve? Email me at the paper if you take the challenge! firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Allen is a best-selling author, small business consultant, founder of City Men Cook Dallas and Sister CEO) and an award-winning journalism and PR expert.