Third Tuesday of Advent: Within the Village
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
—1 Peter 4:8-10 (Read 1 Peter 4)
When I arrived at the airport, the janitor told me that the airline no longer existed. Out of business! No, the flight wasn’t just canceled. The entire airline had shut down.
I was incredulous. It had only been two days since I had flown to Virginia—on the same airline—to visit my daughter at college. And I was devastated.
I needed to get home to Ohio for Auntie Ella Belle’s funeral.
I needed to get home right now.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb which means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. In the Black community, we have many unofficial familial relationships—play cousins, non-relative uncles and aunties, and more. There were many influences in our lives that helped to nurture, shape, and form us. They are the villagers.
And my Auntie Ella Belle was an important part of my village.
A kind, no-nonsense woman who helped to raise and take care of my sisters, brother, and me, Auntie Ella Belle was married to Uncle Cool Baby (I do not know his real name, but he was the coolest) and had four daughters of her own (who had the best Barbie doll collection). She loved us fiercely and would do anything in her power to make our lives better.
Auntie Ella Belle was a seamstress, and she always wanted us to look our very best. As children, she would take us on a trek to Shrigley’s Shoe Store to purchase the newest, most fashionable, high-quality shoes.
Once when my mom was out of town, our teacher called home and asked if everything was okay, because our braided ponytails were pointed upward and the parts were crooked from my dad’s failed attempts at combing our hair. After that, he took us to Auntie Ella Belle’s house before school. She willingly styled our hair every day until our mom returned, and the teacher was relieved!
Auntie Ella Belle had words of wisdom and never hesitated to offer her support and advice to us.
Before I went to college, she told me to keep a quarter on me for a payphone in case of an emergency and to always keep my beverages with me, because someone could slip a mickey in my glass.
She told my sister, who was pregnant out of wedlock at the time, that if someone had something negative to say to her, she would cuss them out—“since your mom and dad can’t do that as pastors.”
After my dad retired, my brother was ordained as the pastor of our church. Auntie Ella Belle told him, “No one better mess with you or they’ll have to deal with me.”
Many people thought she was mean. But, even with her rough exterior and serious demeanor, we knew we were loved and protected by her.
And when I read today’s Scripture passage, Auntie Ella Belle provides the illustration.
When I see, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,“ I think of the woman who called us “Auntie’s babies” (even when we were adults) and was always willing to curse on our behalf.
When I am advised to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” I think of Auntie Ella Belle’s warm house, full of photographs of my siblings and me, and about how her skin was so soft to the touch when we hugged.
And when I hear, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace,” I can almost feel her hands tugging at my hair, guiding it—and me—back into place.
This Advent, I remember Auntie Ella Belle, who in her unconventional, brash, and caring way, showed me God’s love.
I long for a world without funerals, where we are never too far away to reach those we love.
I look forward to the great village to come.
—Nikki Thorpe, CCO Executive Assistant to President and Chairman