No Time To Volunteer? My Nana Ushered for 63 Years!

nana at bbq shop

Nana at her BBQ restaurant in Morgan Park

My mom always shared with me that our family has always instinctively served our community.  My grandmother was dedicated to singing and playing the piano for her church choir at Resurrection Lutheran.  My great-grandmother was the precinct captain in our old neighborhood, and made sure people in our community were equipped effectively to vote and cause change.  And when the dire need presented itself years ago, as a father and local businessman, my grandpa purchased the first microscope for the black middle school in small south suburban village my mom grew up in.  And, then of course there was my other great-grandmother, Maggie Peebles, who we all lovingly called “Nana.”  Nana was an usher for 63 years at Arnette Chapel in the Morgan Park community here on the south side of Chicago.  What a testament to service and commitment that is!

Years ago, Arnette Chapel decided to start a girls mentoring program, and during a Sunday service they asked girls to stand next to the woman who they wanted to mentor them.  To her surprise, a young woman came and stood next to Nana.  She couldn’t believe it.  Nana hadn’t finished elementary school, and although she had owned her own barbecue restaurant for a short time, she was primarily a domestic worker.  She was amazed that a young girl would want to be mentored by her, because she didn’t feel that she had anything substantial to offer this girl.  But, what she didn’t realize was that this girl and many others looked up to Nana because of her strong commitment to servicing her church and community.  Nana was not only this strong, but loving and sweet, usher ready to take her post every Sunday.  But, she was also one of the primary cooks serving up those chicken dinners after service in the church basement.  And, everybody loved Nana, because Nana always made sure EVERYBODY had enough to eat!

nana quote

In today’s society, it’s easy to understand that many of us are just “keeping are heads above water.”  Many of us are primarily focused on economic and professional attainment to improve the status for ourselves and our immediate families.  In this new millennium, it’s hard to imagine how anyone can keep a commitment to a volunteer position for 63 years, when it seems staying with the same job, and most marriages don’t make it for 5-10 years.  But, with the challenges were having in our community with violence, poor education, and struggling family and community infrastructures, how can we not find time to tithe our time much in the way that Nana, and many of our parents, grand parents, and elders did?  We are who we are today and experience the success and freedoms we do, because  our elders made a sacrifice to tithe their time, talents, and service to the betterment of their community and the betterment of their future us.  What a self-less investment?  Nana, and her fellow ushers didn’t take “selfies” or group pics after they served on Sundays and post them to Facebook or Instagram to show all their social media followers and fans how they were “holding it down” for their community.  Nope, they just did the work often with no obvious recognition.  Service was a part of their lifestyle.

Me and Nana at my 8th grade graduation

Me and Nana at my 8th grade graduation

So, it’s essentially our duty to make sure that we are doing the same in our old communities for the next generation, whether they be children in your family or not.  We are all one family.  So, no excuses you have to find the time volunteer at least once a month.  You have to find time to make a phone call or email a week to that teenager who you know is in need of some guidance.  Or, if you’re a practitioner like me, stick with your work!  And, despite all of the set backs and challenges don’t give up and continue to serve.

A commitment to service is definitely a lifestyle choice I hope more of us choose to adopt because SERVICE is a cornerstone of mentoring!



Want to get more tips and insight on mentoring urban youth and girls? Share and follow,  Want to join us with mentoring at Polished Pebbles?  Email us at info@polishedpebbles.


14 thoughts on “No Time To Volunteer? My Nana Ushered for 63 Years!

  1. You’re right service is the cornerstone of our community it builds, restores and keeps our community safe and united. Your Nana sounds like a wonderful lady. She was following in the footsteps of Jesus. His ministry was about being of service to humankind. I believe that Jesus’ willingness to serve unconditionally is why He is so loved and cherished more than 2000 years after he walked this earth. Continue to be of service and encourage others to do the same because “we need each other to survive.” God Bless.

  2. What wonderful examples from your family! I’ve always believed that volunteering is so important because it benefits those in the community being served but also becasue it gives teh server a way to live out what they are passionate about with a completely pure motivation.

    • Hey Cliff! Thanks for sharing. I truly agree with you. The “giver” often benefits more from the service than the actual recipient. Good energy and opportunities all around. Thanks for checking out the blog, and please share! K

  3. Service to the community is truly the cornerstone for any neighborhood! Getting out and forgetting those you leave behind is not as it should be. I think people lack pride in where they live, like your Nana!
    p.s. I just remember her great cooking!!!

    • Hey Mary! Yep, we’re all in this together! And, it’s our communities that made us the great people that we are, and deserve our love and support in return too! Agreed, I miss Nana’s chicken and hot water corn bread! LOL! Thanks for your continued support and sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing that wonderful story about your grandmother. It reminds me so much of my own. A colleague and I just started an organization in our neighborhood to mentor and assist girls and women. Your message is the same message we just shared last night at our Board Meeting. Most people in our neighborhood are in another mindset and are stubborn or not willing to come out to enjoy the fruits of our program. We won’t stop though we will not give up on our community. We are going to keep pressing forward until our space is filled. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Hey Sherry! Thanks for the support! That’s so awesome! Nope, you’re right, we can’t give up on our community. I’ve often found that it requires me to dig a little deeper and remind myself to view these objections or seeming resistance to volunteering with LOVE. Many times people have been fearful of taking that leap into mentoring/volunteering when I’ve asked them. So, the inner mentor in me has to jump out and encourage and motivate the mentors too! 😉 Much love and respect. K

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