Suffering has been a formative topic in the black community since we were taken captive by white slave owners during the mid-15th century until now. As I’ve watched the suffering of black families and friends across the world, I’ve been brought to reflect upon my own suffering. In tandem with this reflection on suffering, I’ve been forced to also think about my faith and how it has saved my life.

I always say that my life story starts off with my mother. After listening to my mom’s story of suffering, one would think that I shouldn’t have been born. In 1954, my mom, who was 3 years old at the time, was sitting by her kerosene heater in a North Carolina home when she found herself consumed by flames; 85% of her body covered in thirddegree burns. I could personally never imagine going through that, nevertheless, it was this pivotal moment in my mother’s life that would set the ground for her own faith in God. Fast forward to 1992, when my older brother — who was hit by a Charlotte state truck driver and told (by an all-white jury) that he can just see out of the other eye — found himself in a cop car facing a very bleak future. He had murdered a young woman. Again, I couldn’t imagine going through such great suffering. She ultimately lost her job and many of those in her life distanced themselves from her. All of this happened, unbeknownst to her, while I was being conceived.

My mom was 40 when my brother went to prison and was considering aborting me due to the health risk that comes with birthing a child at that age. My brother saved my life. He told her that “if you don’t have him and you die, I’ll be alone in this world.” He saved my life. After that, her outlook changed. She said that I saved her life and that God gave her another son so she wouldn’t have to be alone.

on suffering and faith
Source: Origin Magazine

Shortly after that she began to start her journey of faith.

Those two turning points, those two moments of intense suffering and pain, set the foundation for my own resilience and my own faith.

As a child, I grew up in a single-parent household, moved from place to place and was physically and verbally bullied from 6th to 8th grade. Thus, I was ultimately facing the trials that come with being poor. The toughest realization of our poverty came in 2008 when my mom lost her job. My mother and I soon afterward fell into limbo and were homeless. We moved from one state to another. We were forced to live on $368 a month. During that time, an aneurysm was growing in my mother’s brain (she didn’t find out until later) and she was listening to TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, anything on Trinity Broadcasting station and, of course, diligently reading her bible. She was always saying, “God is going to bless, He’ll make a way.” We were in Florida at the time and things were tough. We needed to leave. Soon thereafter, my mom received a check in the mail and we were on our way off to Atlanta, my hometown.

Then another obstacle arose — college. We were dirt poor and still homeless. After much prayer on my mother’s part and mine, and support from the wonderful educators at Therrell High School, I found myself to be a recipient of a Posse scholarship to Bard College. I still suffered, still felt the effects of poverty, still felt my blackness, but one lesson that has been consistent throughout my life is that faith is the balance, the antithesis of hopelessness in suffering. The Posse scholarship is a full-tuition leadership scholarship that is given to a group of 10 young leaders with vast potential. The scholarship itself amounted to $200,000 of support! This would eventually open a plethora of opportunities for me, both academically and socially.

My mother and I are still homeless, as in we do not have a home we can call our own, however, we both still have faith. Faith is what keeps us going. Faith is what pushed me to serve as a camp counselor for seriously ill children at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. “Heaven on earth” is what those who have experienced the camp call it. My faith has led me to serve a three-year stint with AmeriCorps as a City Year AmeriCorps member, and as a teaching fellow for Citizen Schools. I have been able to touch the lives of dozens of black and brown children on a deeper level than most, due to the fact that my mother and I have suffered greatly. Suffering gives a person insight, while faith helps a person utilize it. Faith is what has also allowed me to graduate college, get into my preferred M. Ed program at Boston College, and become a member of Boston Mayor Walsh’s ONEin3 Council.

Both suffering and faith have brought me an incredibly long way. And while suffering will always remain a harsh reality, faith will always remain a constant, a reminder of things hoped for but not yet seen.

How has faith gotten you through a time of suffering? Let’s get the conversation going, and share this post on Facebook below!

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