The Roseman Covered Bridge. Covering enhances the life of a wooden bridge.
Shelter, what shelter? That’s cynical me scanning an environment that isn’t particularly sheltering for Black folks. The concept of shelter seems obvious but deserves a little excavation. As I considered “shelter,” I became enamored with a biblical term, “covering,” to protect and defend; akin to sheltering. They became relevant for me as I discovered photos of historic covered bridges. Modern bridges are concrete and steel but in the 1800s bridges were made of wood and exposed to damage from water, wind, and snow. Bridges often separated communities, commercial routes hence builders decided that covering the bridges would increase their life spans from an average 20 years to 100 years and sheltered them from harmful elements that would break them down and destroy them prematurely. People also need covering.
In the African American community, I’m witnessing the stripping away of those structures like family, faith, and modesty that used to cover us. So much has assaulted the Black family in the last decade that I sometimes feel that in many ways we are worse off than our ancestors toiling in the fields under a cruel whip. At least then there was clarity around the issues and threats of the day and the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Today there is a confusing pot of diversity simmering on a slow burner while a rip-roaring flame of racism and suppressed bigotry seems to be unchecked by regular decent folks. It’s as though all the wicked chickens of racism and oppression have come to roost and remind us of despots like Hitler, and Stalin that some have forgotten, and some seek to emulate.
The shift taking place in the United States is unsettling. The Bible says, “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mark 2:22). Based on that promise, I pray that the existing structures are crumbling so that something better can arise in its place, yet I find myself wanting to run for cover, and there is no cover.
There are more questions than answers.
Can spirituality or ethics cover our families? Not everyone believes in organized religion, God, or a Supreme being. I’m familiar with the successes and failures of the modern faith structures, and I challenge the non-believers to find a way to give coming generations an anchor in this storm. We all need guidance when we are lost and weary. We need a pathway to values of fairness, honesty, kindness, integrity, and service to others. How will we support these values? How will we shelter our lost and injured?
Is the family structure covering the children? Often young parents are unprepared for adulthood much less parenthood, which includes loving, guiding, and serving as effective advocates in addition to sheltering our children from physical and psychological harm. A generation ago, our children had more daily interactions with us. Today’s parents have an endless workday answering emails, texts, and phone calls during time that was once reserved for the family. Recently, I have seen disturbing images on social media that I have blocked, but what about the children? Children used to be asked to leave the room when inappropriate visuals were on the screen. Radio channels got flipped past dicey lyrics. Today, that’s virtually impossible. Technology works against any notion of sheltering our children. How can you censor children’s incoming messages while they walk around with ear pods streaming information directly to their brains and view images on personal devices with screens secured from parental oversight?
Can modesty provide covering? I am no prude yet recently I have come to see clothing as a protective covering. The covering of the body with cloth, though silent, speaks volumes. It says NO, NOT NOW, or NOT ME. Without the covering of modesty, none of those protections are in place either for the person being seen, or the seer, who may be struggling with interpreting social cues or subduing primal thoughts. Modesty allows for a first impression of qualities other than physical to emerge, “his eyes,” “her smile.” I’m for modesty in women and men’s clothing.
Yes, I’m cynical and contemplative about my environment. What I’m clear about is that shelter, while an abstract concept, is one that we must seriously consider. How can we possibly provide for the physical and spiritual continuation of our future generations? Another item for the to-do list!
Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.
The photo of the Roseman Covered Bridge, referenced in the movie “the Bridges of Madison County,” is by Lance Larsen Originally uploaded to the English language Wikipedia (log); transferred to Commons by Vineyard., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3656134