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If you disrespect every body that you run in to How in world do you think anybody’s s’pose to respect you?
Bernie opened his eyes and back seat of New York town car was gone.
He was in back yard of an old grey stone on south side of Chicago. It was summer, lots of smiling. And on those two tables, heaping platters of fried chicken, ribs, and sausage, burgers and greens. Sweaty pitchers of lemonade. Kids shouting and that same song playing:
If you don’t give a heck about man with Bible in his hand Just get out way and let gentleman do his thing.
Bernie shook his head, closed and then opened his eyes.
He could do this. He was good with new crowds. He could always sell. Always had. Always would.
That song kept coming:
You kind of gentleman who want everything his way Take sheet off your face boy It’s a brand new day. Respect yourself. . . .
Bernie approached wise old man who seemed to be at center of all this. “Mavis” man was shouting, “Cleotha, Yvone, come over here now!”---he was smiling, motioning over three women who Bernie guessed to be his daughters.
But as Bernie began to walk towards man everybody was calling Pops, Bernie realized that no one could see him.
He reached out to pat a small, running child’s head and child didn’t even look up! He said, “Good afternoon sir,” to a man drinking a cold beer and man looked right through him!
Bernie tapped Mavis Staples on shoulder where she stood listening to her father speak and Mavis didn’t even turn around!
Bernie Ebbers, totally alone.
He smelled burgers on grill. He could see smiling, laughing people in what was a legendary Chicago back yard picnic at Staples, he could hear that song (Respect yourself! Respect yourself!)
He was completely alone. No one knew he was there.
Bernie Ebbers felt himself began to break. He heard bass line---
Respect yourself Respect yourself
Bernie Ebbers thought he had known every kind of pain there was to know. He thought he’d faced worst. He thought, none of this was really my fault.
But in that back yard on south side of Chicago: realizing that, no one could see him. That he had no idea where he was. No idea how to get home to Mississippi. No notion of what do next.
Bernie Ebbers kept hearing song (Respect yourself. Respect yourself) and he felt himself breaking into a shame that was new. A shame that came from no one being able to see him, No one even knowing he was there. Bernie Ebbers knew he would break and he would never even really know why.
He reached out his hands in shame, in terror and in total aloneness and he began to cry.
And just when he did:
Pops Staples handed him a heaping plate of chicken and burgers, beans and greens, looked at him with deep sad eyes and said,
“Son, respect yourself.”
Roger Wright authors the Blog CHURCH FOOD. http://blogs.salon.com/0004257/
He connects things in very strange ways.