Most of my formative years were spent in segregated black communities where our immediate neighbors were from diverse class backgrounds. Some folks were poor—just barely getting by and making ends meet. They lived in tiny railroad shacks and kept them neat and tidy. Then there were the working-class families like ours, with lots of hungry mouths to feed, so that even if fathers had good jobs like working in the coal mines, it could still be hard sometimes to make ends meet. If the women in these families worked they did service jobs—housecleaning, cooking, or working now and then in the tobacco fields or on the loosening floor. The lovely freshly painted houses in our neighborhood usually belonged to middle-class folks and the rare person with lots of money. They were schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, and undertakers.
If anyone suffered economic hardship in that world somebody knew and ways were found to share—to meet needs. In that small segregated world it was hard to keep secrets. At school teachers paid attention and they knew if a child was in need. At church everyone saw you. And if all else failed somebody would come by your house