I’ve been exposed. My philanthropy has been discovered. It’s been discovered by a member of my family no less. Let me explain…
A little over a year ago, I received word from my father that the Baptist church that has long been a cornerstone for my family is going through a crisis. Apparently, the pastor abruptly quit. He didn’t give any notice. He didn’t even bother to tell anyone he was leaving. As he walked out the door he took a number of items from the church with him.
Per the conversation with my father, the pastor cheated on his wife (who doubled as the choir director) and impregnated a young twenty-something year old woman, who is a member of the church. The pastor’s wife also quit the church out of sheer embarrassment, but not before telling anyone who would listen that her husband is actually gay.
Nothing about this pastor surprised me. I never really liked the man. I stopped going to church a long time ago after getting the courage to say, “I’m agnostic, and I simply do not believe in this shit!”
When I was attending church as a teenager this pastor used to give me some of the most salacious looks I have ever received from a man. There was something extremely inappropriate in the way he looked at me, and I had enough sense to stir clear of him.
As for the pastor’s wife’s claims that he is gay, I say at the very least the man is bisexual, and quite obviously he is troubled. When my aunt and several other elders of the church were finally able to confront him about the stuff he took from the church he answered simply that he wanted to keep some mementos to always remember his time as pastor of the church. I’m sure everyone else wishes to forget his time at the church not only because he is a shitty person, but because of the debt he left the church to handle.
The church is located in a very small, extremely rural, backwoods town in south Georgia. If you want some sort of example just think The Color Purple the movie. I’m not exaggerating. The church’s physical location was always a sore spot for me because I grew up thinking the Klu Klux Klan would come walking up out the woods behind the church while we were attending service and torch the place with us inside on some Mississippi Burning type shit.
Just know my fears were not unfounded. This town is Klan country and the church was constantly vandalized and looted by white terrorist. Besides this I also feared the never-ending parade of coyotes that made their way out of the woods and the fire ants that seemed to breed like roaches around the church’s grounds.
In the Spring of 2008 a tornado blew through the town where the church is located. The masonry church was one of the tornado’s many casualties. It completely destroyed the church. The church itself was built in 1876 by former slaves. The former slaves previously attended the white church up the street where their former slavemaster’s held service. They were forced to stand in the balcony and weren’t treated with any respect. I guess around 1876 they said, “Fuck this shit!” and went down the street and built their own church. They even gave their new church the same exact name as the white church they left.
And this is what I grew up knowing….a black church with a name and a white church directly down the street with the same exact name (it wasn’t until a few years ago that learned the history of the two churches). The solid brick church that the former slaves built stood in the same place up until the tornado in the Spring of 2008 blew it down.
In an act of kindness that would no doubt give the most bigoted people pause, the descendants of the white slaveowners from the white church (their church had survived with minimum damage) with the same name invited the descendants of the slaves from the black church to attend their church while a new church was being built.
That new church turned out to be a multi-million dollar money pit. The church literally bit off more than it could chew. Someone, whoever made the decision to have the large church built, seemingly ignored a couple of things…
- Blacks in the surrounding community have been abandoning the area due to lack of economic opportunity.
- The old guard/elders of the church are slowly dying off (i.e., folks like my grandma) and there are very few people to replace them and their generous tithes.
- Overall, there has been a decline in institutional religion among black people period.
So, this crooked pastor and his roaming dick left the church high and dry during one of the most uncertain times in its history.
My motivation for helping is resting in peace in the church’s cemetery….my grandma. I don’t have any profound love for the church, however, that doesn’t mean I want to see it fail. I don’t want to see the church, which is part of my history, go the way of the dinosaur. I hope that one day black folks will reclaim some sort of religion if only to stir the black community back in the right direction.
I know my grandma loved the church. She lived her life in the community surrounding the church, and if she could do anything to help the church she did. I know if she were alive today she would give her last to the church during its time of need. For this reason I feel a sense of obligation. My grandma, and my other ancestors in the church’s cemetery, would want me to help especially now that I have the means. This is why my checkbook has been opened to the church for over a year.
Every month for over a year I’ve been sending the church $1,500 checks. If you do the math $1,500 x 12 months equals $18,000. The checks have my name on them, but they have my father’s address and phone number on them. I’ve had the same checking account since I was 18 years old and I’ve had the same book of Scooby-doo checks since then as well. I don’t write checks under normal circumstances. That’s why the book of checks still exist after 15 years.
The checks are sent down south to the church using priority mail through the United States Postal Service. For twelve months someone at the church deposited the checks and never bothered to ask why someone living in Atlanta (per the envelope) would send the church $1500 a month every month. I guess he/she was just happy to see money coming into the church.
My aunt used to be the church’s bookkeeper. When I learned that she was no longer serving in this position (and apparently hasn’t been in this position in years) I let out a sigh of relief. Why? Because I hoped my philanthropy would go unnoticed. If she saw my name on the checks I knew the jig would be up.
My family doesn’t know how much money I make and I prefer to keep it that way. I’m sure they suspect I make a good living given the size of my home, but that’s about as far it goes. The last thing I need is a bunch of people looking to me for loans etc.
I believe in silent benevolence. I don’t want cool points or kudos for my charity. I don’t want any recognition at all. I believe if you have the means you should give back in some way and I believe you shouldn’t expect anything in return.
Well, my hope for complete anonymity went straight to hell today. Unbeknownst to me my aunt became the church’s bookkeeper again this month, and with that she noticed the $1500 check I sent this month. She called me up…
Me: “I don’t want anyone to know.”
Aunt: “Why? You’ve done a good thing….more than most.”
Me: “I don’t want any recognition for it and I would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to anyone….especially my parents…about the money I’ve been sending.”
It took nearly an hour for me to convince my aunt not to say anything to anyone. I sure hope she honors my wishes….