by Elise Sharpe

Last week as we all said hello to 2017, I also had to say goodbye to my grandmother.  Since she passed, my family has gathered to tell stories and share memories, continuing to learn about her life.  And as I watch my nieces toddle around the places where we’re gathered, I reflect on the legacies and lessons we all get to leave for the next generation.

For starters, my grandmother was not impressed with her own accomplishments.  In fact, that’s why I didn’t know many of them. As a woman living where she did and when she did, my grandmother wasn’t allowed to hold many positions of influence, but that didn’t stop her from signing up my grandfather and then doing the work behind the scenes.  She was far more concerned over whether the work was done, and done well, than with who got the credit.

She also had this infectious smile that quickly turned to uncontrollable laughter and kept her from completing her sentences.  She looked you deep in the eyes, and she radiated joy.  My grandmother kept her spark even in the face of losing loved ones and battling long-term illness.

Perhaps the thing I admire most though is how my grandmother defined neighbor in the broadest terms and with the highest calling.  You didn’t have to share a street address, political views, or even sports team allegiances to be her neighbor – though being an Arkansas Razorback may have gotten you bonus points.  She was deeply committed to her neighbors, embodying “love your neighbor as yourself.”

As I look ahead to 2017, I’m focusing on that which will last long after I depart from this earth, and I’m dreaming of a Durham where everyone calls each other neighbor.


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