We are strong, until we are weak. We are independent, until we are dependent. In these realities, we realize we may want to fly solo, but God has fixed it so we never truly travel alone. Margaret Moore, who has a heart to help, knows this.
She is a 70-something woman of goodwill who grew up in a time when her winter night skin caused folks of ivory hues to believe she was less than human. Moore never believed the lies. She came from a family filled with love, firm in faith, and dedicated to the practice of taking care of each other. It is no wonder then that Moore is passionate about helping others with needs dire and daily.
“She is an angel,” said Beverly Watrous, a friend of Moore’s who is grateful and amazed by her big heart. “She truly is.”
Sickness brought the two women together. After initially meeting at a jazz concert in Myrtle Beach, they cemented a friendship after health issues required Watrous to seek care in 2012 at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC.
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“This woman is by my front door at 4 a.m. so I can be at a 9 a.m. appointment,” Watrous said. “She has never once stood me up or let me down.”
Jean Pitts lives in the same Myrtle Beach community as Moore. She has known her for at least a decade, and Pitts has learned Moore is a stalwart friend. Pitts, whose husband died three yeas ago, is still grieving the death of her daughter, Simone Pitts, who died July 27.
“I was stressed and depressed when my daughter died,” Pitts said while recently visiting Moore. “If it wasn’t for Margaret, who knows what would have happened? We keep busy. We go out shopping together. We go to lunch. You can’t talk to everybody about everything, but I can talk to Margaret.”
Pitts and Watrous are among the folks who have seen Moore’s philanthropic spirit soar.
College kids with nowhere to stay bunk in her house, although most of her benevolence is bestowed upon senior citizens. She drives them where they need to go. She cooks them meals. She lends them her shoulders when they to place their heads on them for good cries.
“She is there for company and comfort,” Pitts said.
Back in 2001, South Carolina welcomed back this native daughter from New York. Moore came into the world via Laurens County, S.C. The youngest of nine children created by Rebecca and Progress Little, she was reared by her grandmother after her mom died when she was 11-months-old. Grandma Little, as she was known, was a Cherokee Indian. She would wear her hair parted neatly down the middle, with one long braid on each side. Although not strict, she didn’t tolerate any foolishness. What she required was simple: Children were to listen, obey, and go to church.
There came a day, however, when one of Moore’s brothers, Joe Little, decided he wasn’t going to church because he was “a grown man” and could do what he wanted. Grandma Little didn’t argue. She simply fetched her handmade straw broom and used it as if it were a belt. Later that morning, Moore looked up and saw her brother walking into the church, and he literally came in singing.
Besides getting a good laugh and a quick pop to her head from her grandma for poking fun at her brother, Moore learned several lessons; chief among them was folks reap what they sow. She, though a little girl, was determined to do her best to live by that creed.
“My grandma was like God to me,” Moore said. “She taught us what was right, and she always had these little sayings. I still use many of them today. She would say, ‘If you lie, you are going to steal. If you steal, you are going to try to kill somebody. But guess what? I will kill you first.’”
Six months before she turned 10, she left Grandma Little’s house and went to live in New York with her brother and sister-in-law, Eugene and Elizabeth Little. The move was a swift one because unfortunately as a chocolate-colored girl, she was laughed at and spit on by vanilla-colored girls. Moore grew tired of it and decided to literally fight back. Indeed, even as a child, she didn’t like people being wronged, not excluding her.
“I was always a fighter for what was right,” Moore said.
Grandma Little was a champion for justice, too, but she was also a wise woman who knew black lives didn’t matter to plenty of people during a time when separate was never equal.
“I left for New York because she feared for my safety,” Moore said.
In New York, her Southern self-assurance was boosted when she began obtaining a deeper understanding of black culture and its African roots.
“In the 1960s, I fit right in the black revolution,” said Moore, who believes she was the only one of her parents’ children to graduate from college. She studied political and social science before becoming an educational research and evaluation consultant who was entrenched in theater work during her time in New York. “I was ready for it because I could really get to know myself and learn black history from Africa, not from South Carolina. I had to reinvent my thinking.”
Yet, her transformation caused her to grow closer to people, not farther from them. Not only did she grow in understand who she was, but she also came to better comprehend who others were. She realized that we all have problems and prejudices, but we are all still people. Sometimes, we wet our pillow with tears. Sometimes, we laugh until our bellies hurt. Sometimes, we fight. Sometimes, we reconcile. Through it all, Moore lived and learned that at every turn we should love.
“People have always showed me love, supported me, and helped me,” Moore said. “I am determined to do the same because God made us all. We have to understand life is for everybody. We have to help each other get through this world, and I choose to put people before things.”
Contact Johanna D. Wilson at JohannasCarolinaCharacters@gmail.com or to suggest subjects for an upcoming column.