disrespect-10

07

The dishonest disrespect
Nigel Clarke, Brooklyn, NY

Sometimes, being the larger person is the only way to move past a moment of disrespect.

Nigel Clarke grew up in a large Guyanese family in Brooklyn. None of them had a lot of money and, when Nigel’s aunt invited him to participate in an old Caribbean banking tradition called “sou sou,” it seemed like a great idea.

“Everybody would put $100 in the box weekly, and, every week, a different person would take his “hand,”” he explains. A “hand” was the weekly pot, which could be as much as two grand.

Nigel was straight out of school and had no savings yet. He eagerly looked forward to his turn to collect — and that’s when the money went missing.

“My aunt had gone to Guyana. But before she left, she told me that my cousin was delivering the box to my house. And I waited ’til midnight, calling my cousin again and again on the phone. She never came. I never got the money.”

Nigel’s aunt refused to take responsibility for the missing box. This led to a 15-year break in their relationship. To this day, he doesn’t know what happened.

“My aunt and I didn’t talk until my grandmother passed away a year ago,” he says. “And then I told her that I wasn’t going to hold onto it any longer. At that point, I knew the resolution had to be all on my side. I just resolved to forgive and forget.”

Nigel shrugs off the betrayal now, refusing to let the hurt and anger fester. His 20-year career at Thomson Reuters has since given him the financial security he once lacked. But the memory of what it was like to struggle for money reminds him to extend generosity in all things. “Everyone’s fallible,” he says. “Everyone’s just trying to make it work.” So when his cousin and aunt both made small requests for financial help in the months after his grandmother’s funeral, he simply gave.