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Berdine's Corner

You Are Your Brother's Keeper

by Deborah E. Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

Although this saying is derived from the Bible story of Cain and Abel, it embodies who Berdine Dillard Dennard was. She was one of twelve children. After losing her father at the young age of eleven, Berdine took on the awesome task of helping her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters. This experience helped make her into who she was - a giving, loving maternal figure to many. She taught many important lessons with her words and her life about this.

Take care of home first. While it is admirable to lend a helping hand to others, it is imperative that charity begins at home. In most of our extended families, there are children and in many cases, adults in need of mentoring and help. Although sometimes it is a much more difficult challenge, we owe it to ourselves and our families to try to reach those family members first.

This also means holding each person accountable. Sometimes it is hard to be a part of the Dillard clan because you are definitely held accountable, and there is no such thing as having your own business. If you mess up, you will be talked to and about, and that goes for anyone who happens to marry in the family as well. While this is not always pleasant, we know we are accountable to the family and don't want to mess up because we know that someone is going to put us in check if we get out of line. There was once a time when family meant something special. In order for us to become the people we wish to become, we must take back our families, and it is every family member's responsibility to hold each other accountable.

It is your responsibility to give to others. After you have taken care of home, we must take care of others. There is an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." Before desegregation, this was our way of living. We, as African Americans, must get back to this way of living. The only way we will overcome what television and radio has done to our children is by reaching out to them. Sometimes, it is one child at a time. Not only must we do this with children, but we must also help each other as adults. If we see someone struggling, be it emotionally, physically, or financially, we must be willing to lend a helping hand.

My mother spent her entire life giving to others. She would save her extra money and would put it in a little black wallet in her purse. She saved it for special projects around the house. However, those projects never came before people. Sometimes, she would take money from it to give to a child in college or to a relative in need. She even gave to the Feed the Hungry charity on a monthly basis. She was never without. Not only did she give of herself financially, but she gave unsolicited and solicited advice to family as well as friends and co-workers. As a secretary at the sheriff's department, many times she would talk to young deputies (who she lovingly referred to as her boys) and try to guide them in the right direction when she saw them getting off track. We must do the same thing on our jobs when we see young people going in the wrong direction. It is our responsibility.

We must remember that we ARE our brother's keepers.


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