Last year I was told by my doctor that I needed open heart surgery to repair a heart valve that had been damaged by improperly treated rheumatic fever as a child. Well, I was alarmed because I did not want to have such an invasive surgery by someone whom I did not know from Adam. And being poor with no influence among the medical community, I was really sad. You see being a social worker in-town for over three decades, I knew what usually happened to people who have no influence or insurance who need medical services. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
I had medical insurance. But, I didn’t want to be part of an assembly line during surgery. It really concerned me that complete strangers would be visiting a space in my heart that only God resided. I was not financially well-off. Money and influence is known to rule the world. So I went home and began to write a list of things and skills I did have. Among the items on my list was cooking.
According to those who had eaten my food, I am a terrific cook. I then called the surgeons office and asked for permission to cater in a soul food lunch for the doctor and his staff. They were delighted. A date was set. I asked the ex-cons who work in the catering department of Rose’s Good Company to help me prepare and serve the lunch. When I explained to them why I was doing this cooking event they all laughed their heads off, saying, “Rose you never cease to amaze us. You sure can come up with a solution.”
When we arrived at the medical facility we began to set up the warmers and all the trimmings necessary for a splendid feast. Our guests poured into the room, and the aroma of the homemade foods from scratch captivated their senses and their attention. They sat at the tables and truly enjoyed themselves, licking their fingers covered with sauce from the barbecue ribs I had made. One could see personnel eating who had been taught not to overindulge, catching hell trying to stop this delicious flow of good taste. The surgeon asked his staff to get on the phone and invite other doctors in the building to this marvelous event. The 45-minute lunch lasted two hours.
Afterwards when my helpers were cleaning up to move on, I said to the surgeon, “I did this because I want you to be able to associate my heart with the food you have eaten here today. That is, if you ever want to taste it again!” He smiled, shaking his head in disbelief of what he had just experienced and at the length I had gone to make a point.
Then the doctor said, “You have a wonderful group of people working with you. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with the man in the brown shirt.” I said, “Who John?” He nodded yes. I went on to say, “Oh John is my right arm. He has been with us for years. He also spent 36 years in prison.” With absolute amazement on his face, the doctor shouted, “What? Well he is just like me”. I said warmly, “He sure is.”
I went on to mention the names of the other ex-cons who accompanied me, and the more than thirty years each of them had done in prison. The surgeon was flabbergasted. For a minute I thought I was going to have to resuscitate him.
I ended our conversation saying that myths have to be dispelled. The individuals you see here with me are good human beings, as you have witnessed today. All that was needed in their lives was a second chance.