We become so that others become…

This guest post is written by Tameka B. Moss, director at Next Street Talent, for Women's History Month

Though impossible to list the countless elements of my life for which I am profoundly grateful, there is one theme that has been a consistent thread in my life. I’ve had access to leaders, elders, teachers, and champions who at critical inflection points of my journey have paused to watch, heed, and nurture my mind and my soul. As I reflect on why I, a woman born into a set of circumstances that often derail and crush a young person’s potential and future, get to wake everyday bursting with joy for the life I get to live, all I can do is bow my head in humble appreciation for those who took the time to give, to pour into me.

For example: as I began my sophomore year at Boston Latin School, I realized that though I needed the money from an afterschool job, I wanted an experience that would expose me to business and potentially transferable skills. I began my search in a place where I had received truth, guidance and unconditional love—my small church, Zion FBH. Several of my older female members offered assistance, but my pastor’s daughter, Ro-Adrienne responded immediately. She read the letter I so earnestly had typed asking for their support (of course, I thought if it was typed, they’d be assured of my sincerity and maturity!) and told me on the spot that I had a job! Umm...but I didn’t know where she worked or what the job would entail, yet I was so grateful (and a little scared!).

What began as a simple 10-hour a week stint turned into the most influential mentoring relationship that fostered my growth as a woman of faith, an ambitious professional, a devoted daughter and sister, and a socially conscious African-American who believes that community and connection are the backbone of our heritage (and the component of our modern time that is rapidly crumbling).

Ro Davidson, godmother, teacher, friend, confidante, champion, Pastor — her titles and nicknames are not sufficient to encapsulate all she has been to me...and continues to be. Growing up, I was shy, hungry for knowledge, and more comfortable around books than people. My mother will tell you that I’d cry if strangers spoke to me when I was a toddler. The point: I always felt like the ‘odd duckling’ even within a family and church brimming with cousins, pals, playmates and nurturing hands. By my early teens I had resigned myself to believing there was no one who saw life in the patterns I did, that my cadence would always be “offbeat” compared to others. Not with Ro—she gets me. And because she does, she is able to give me sage, direct advice and feedback — always customized to who I am and my needs but grounded in practical experience.

Ro coached me through college applications and choosing where to matriculate (without listening to everyone else’s opinion of what was best for me). She never weighed in, just supported me in listening to my own voice, learning to stand on my own, and choose my life’s course. When I decided: she nodded in approval and said, “Great. This is the [school] you are most excited about, and I’m glad you are choosing you.”

Every major life decision, professional inflection point, personal crisis — she has stood by me. Leading by example, she has been for me what so few children in our community have: someone who achieved so much but never forgot to lift as she climbed. More than a decade ago, she took up her parents’ mantle as leader and pastor of my small congregation. Who better to shepherd me in my spiritual walk than the one who supported my growth into womanhood? So Ro has become Pastor (or P for short!) to me, but the concern, attention, and love are enhanced by this additional layer to our mentoring relationship.

We become so that others become...if more of us truly believed that there is no greater impact than positively affecting another human life every one of our children could say they get to thrive, soar and excel because they had someone nurturing their dreams, because they had a Reverend Ro-Adrienne Davidson.