Star Jones

Star Jones
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Tell IT LIKE IT IS: Finding Families in our Community...Again

It used to be that when a family found themselves in trouble; their neighbors pitched in and helped out until the family could get back on their feet.  Before my mom and step-father got together (thank you Lord for this WONDERFUL man who has been in my life for over 35 years now!), I clearly remember an incident from my childhood that shaped my opinion of what community and family is all about.  

I was a little girl living with my Mom and sister in the Miller Homes housing projects in Trenton, NJ.  It was payday and my mom had cashed her check so she could pay all the family bills for the week.  Like most people, we lived paycheck to paycheck so everything we needed to survive for the week came out of that check.  Mom always did the family laundry down in the community laundry room and while changing one load from the washer to the dryer; someone stole her wallet...with her entire paycheck in it.  I mean every dollar.  How does that translate in reality?  No money to buy food, no money to pay rent, no money for bus fare to work, no money for school lunch, no money to finish the damn laundry!  As you can imagine, my mother went into a tailspin.  Even now I can remember her crying and wondering out loud how she would make it through the week. 

She didn't wonder for long.  Our neighbors, who mind you, also lived in the housing project and operated paycheck to paycheck, took over.  They threw what was called at the time a "rent party."  Everyone brought something to our apartment.  Fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad, chips, pretzels, beer, wine...whatever they could spare; they brought.  Everything was set up buffet style and the music started playing.  All day long...and into the night people came through for $5 a head and they could eat, drink, laugh and party till the refreshments ran out and the music stopped playing.  That money paid our bills for the week.  Those neighbors reached out a hand of friendship that day.  Our community was our family.  

Where has that community spirit gone?  Why, according to Reuters have incidents of Child Abuse spiked due to the economic downturn? Where are are the neighbors that used to lend a hand when a young mother was overwhelmed?  Where are the men from the community that used to "jack a brother up" when he put his hands on a woman or a child?  What the hell has happened to our families and our community spirit?

Maybe a few "rent parties" are in order to remind us that we are still responsible for each other.  I got my $5 and I'll bring the deviled eggs...

-Rudolf Steiner

(As a small personal aside...I remember the day my mom had her paycheck stolen out of the laundry so clearly because it was also the day I vowed that the moment I made ANY money, I would buy mother her own house with her own laundry in it so she would never have to cry like that again.  After I paid off my student was the first piece of property I ever bought. )


  1. You took me back with the rent parties. The problem is people today have no value. No respect. Parents are not raising their kids to be women or me. They are letting the kids raise themselves. We are living in the most selfish times. Everyone is only looking out SELF! I grew in times when the teachers spanked us, the neighbors spanked us. Now we have so much pride that we don't want people in our business. Times have definitely changed

  2. I admit that I’ve never witnessed a “rent party” (maybe due to my age or neighborhood). I wouldn’t necessarily conclude it to a problem with today’s kids but I think it’s the overall society’s lack of “family and unity” spirit that’s contributed to making those acts of humanity “old school”. I believe now more than ever is a time for us to look out for each other.

    I do think prior to the economic crisis-hitting mainstream, there was a high level of pride and keeping up with appearances. But now, the light is shinning on all that’s good, bad, and ugly. It is time for us to push the reset button and take it all back to the basics. It should always be about God, love, family, and being happy PERIOD. The great thing about having those things in your life is it requires no money or a certain social economic status.

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  4. How cool is that, I remember rent parties from the sixties when we would ocassionally live in New and the trimmings at Ms. Effie's Florida I remember when people would go fishing and have fish fries, you would get fish, bread and maybe hushpuppies and a cold drink for a couple of days...the next day the family who hosted the party could go shopping for necessities...thanks for this...


  5. Darlin', I miss you on the View. I miss the happy, hopeful woman who used to be such a light in the darkness. This little story shows your special gift to connect meaningfully to people.

    I pray you find your happiness and joy again. When you are happy, you make us all happy. We need the laughter and joy, sweetheart. It's been gone from the world far too long.


Your comments are welcome as long as they are in keeping with the spirit of this blog. They must be positive about your life, your community, our nation or our world. They must elevate...not denigrate...and if you criticize me or my position...state your name and email address so I know who you are and can address you directly. My rules. Star