Sunday dinners were more than delightful meals.
In my youth, these meals came in the evening after spending hours at church where we sat semi-obediently learning the Lord’s lessons and praying for time to pick up the pace.
Because when those church doors opened and we walked into the blinding afternoon sunlight, we knew there were just a few hours before heading to The Hill for Sunday dinner.
The Hill is a sloping property where my grandmother and her siblings all have homes and where my brother and I played with our cousins and initiated shenanigans until it was time to fill our bellies with soul food.
Soul food is different from a meal.
A meal is balanced and complete. It’s often cooked using measuring cups or spoons, it typically follows a recipe, and you can set a timer to it.
Soul food, however, is prepared with the tips of fingers, palms of hands, and muscle memory.
Measuring cups are rarely needed, and the only requirements are a watchful eye, a keen nose, and a deft hand to handle the seasonings.
It’s pinches of this, and a shake or two of that, and double of something, usually butter.
But there is one essential ingredient found in every single plate of soul food, no matter what kitchen you find it in — love.
If there is no love in the mixture, then all you have is a plate of food.
As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s true. My grandmother told me so.
That’s why Sunday dinners were significant.
After six days of dealing with the world and all the heaviness it offered, we’d all get together at my grandmother’s house and exhale.
We’d talk, laugh, and, of course, eat freely on dishes imbued in love.
Those plates didn’t just satisfy a pang of physical hunger, that food fed our souls.
It gave us the strength to tackle the upcoming week.
Those dinners were lifelines at times, especially as I grew older.
I looked forward to Sundays because I was guaranteed a chance to bathe my soul (and stomach) in goodness and feel restored, even if it only lasted until the next Sunday.
It has been some time since I’ve enjoyed a soul food Sunday dinner on The Hill.
I think that’s why I felt so empty last week.
My soul was running on E, and my body on fumes.
So although I stay abreast of the latest in tragic shooting deaths, murders, trials, and hate-fueled conflicts, I also vigorously search for news to feed my soul.
That’s how I came across the story of North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby.
He’s a principal, serves on the Charleston County Council, and without being asked and without telling anyone, Henry secured a third job in August as a part-time employee at Walmart, stocking shelves from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. three nights a week.
The check he earns from stocking shelves is used to help support current students, former students, and even teachers at his campus.
He tried to keep his works secret, but I’m grateful word got out.
Listening to him express concern and hope over the wellbeing of his students was the reminder I needed — that all is not lost, there is good and love surrounding us.
During an interview, Henry said people of his generation do not ask for money, they just “get the job done.”
Since his story began circulating online, Walmart gave the school and $50,000 and two crowdfunding pages raised more than $195,000 for Henry’s efforts.
Henry may have started as a one-man army against the plight of his students, but he’s not alone in his efforts anymore.
And his demonstration of humanity is more than moving — it is news for the soul.
Reach Marquita Griffin at email@example.com.