as told to Ann Karp
I met Ms. Georgia Solomon one rainy day when I was working in the Koinonia welcome center and gift store. The phone wasn’t ringing, and nobody was coming by—I was bored! Then Georgia walked in, took a seat in one of the chairs and, almost unbidden, began telling me about her life. She blew me away—I certainly wasn’t bored anymore. I tried to remember all that I could, and later wrote it down. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of conversing with Georgia several times more. She is a warm-hearted woman with a strong faith, and when we talk about the past, I get the feeling that she is trying to express to me the spirit of love that she felt in the eyes, words, and deeds of the Koinonians she knew in those days, and the necessity of continuing to act in that spirit.
For many, many years, Georgia has been our neighbor and, at times, has worked at Koinonia. Sometimes she still likes to come help cook lunch and share the noon meal. “It gives me something to do to get out of the house, and I wanted to eat some more healthy food,” she told me. Georgia still lives just a ten-minute walk away, in a house built by the Koinonia Housing Ministry in the early 1970s.
I was born in 1942, just like Koinonia. But we couldn’t go to Koinonia. Black people were threatened by mean white people who said, ‘You can’t go around there.’ One man got to the point where he said, ‘I don’t care, they need a worker and I can do it so I’m going to apply.’ [And he was OK.]
My mother said to my sister, ‘Don’t you go up there to Koinonia, they [the mean white people] will kill you.’ My sister said, ‘They’re not going to catch me to kill me,’ and she went in on the back road. And she’d come back and tell us how nice it was there. Oh, we wanted to go! Well, we did go sometimes, to get pecans. Clarence would give us pecans. Such a sweet man, he was sweet. It was a pleasure just to look at him, because he looked at you different than other people did.
Debra Mosley and Jan [Jordan–two Koinonia community members] found me and my kids alone [in a state of need]. They slept in the bed with me to keep me company. ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ they asked. I said, ‘I was trying to do on my own.’ I was ashamed to show what I had. I had no food, no diapers… ‘You’ve got three babies and one in the belly, you can’t do on your own!’ they said. And they brought diapers, slips, dresses, sweaters… And I stayed right there in that house.
They [Koinonia] asked me, ‘Do you want a house built?’ I said, ‘Are you crazy? I have six children.’ But they built me a house.
[I worked twenty years in the Koinonia kitchen and with the pecans.] They didn’t work you like a slave. They treated you like an equal.
Me and two other people, we still pray for Koinonia. That Koinonia will reach out and help people, help neighbors. But the work is slow! Clarence—I would call him Brother Clarence—he was here a long time. His work was hard, and slow. You have to walk and not stop, you have to run and not faint. And his work spoke for him.
All of my seven children are still living, all grown. Worrying about your children doesn’t ever end, but I made it through my trials and tribulations, and now I’m striving for eternal life. I know my work will speak for me.