SARAH BUTLER: Tender Loving Care


I stand on the dormitory steps with my suitcase in my hand. Why didn’t I pay more attention? In 1965 being the only white student at historically black Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, keeps me busy. I go to class, do my homework, participate in the Human Relations Council, talk with folks about the Civil Rights Movement and write letters home. I didn’t heed the announcement that Coppin Hall, the girls’ dorm, would be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. And here I am on the street wondering what to do. It’s cold and the wind whips around me. I haven’t got a coat; I thought it was always hot in South Carolina.


I can’t go home to California.  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People pays my tuition, room and board.  Holiday lodging is up to me and I haven’t enough money for a motel.  And then I remember Sarah Butler’s phone number in my wallet.  My teeth chattering I cross the street to the pay phone near the beauty shop and call.

            “Hello,” Mrs. Butler’s voice warms my heart.

            “Hello, Mrs. Butler, it’s Sherie.”

            “Where you at chil’?  You at school?”

            “Yes, ma’am, but my dormitory is closed for the holiday.”

            “Is that yor teeth chatterin’ Aah hear?  Where you goin’ go?”

            “Yes, ma’am.  I don’t have a coat.  Do you have room for one more this week?”  She has no idea how close I am to crying.  Ten weeks of voter registration work and eleven weeks of school have left me feeling tattered and in need of some tender loving care. 

            “You know I always have room in my heart and home for you girl. How you goin’ get here from Columbia?”  I take a deep breath and my teeth settle down.

            “If I get a bus as far as St. Stephen, can you find someone to pick me up?”

            “You jus’ let me know when you comin’ and someone will be there to carry you home.”

            “Thank you very much.  I can’t wait to give you a hug.”

            “Thank the Lord we have this holiday together. You come on along home now.   And girl, get warm before you do anythin’ more.” 


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