Today, we are happy to share Donna-Marie Winn’s beautiful story about sisterhood of acceptance. Enjoy!
“Come to my house this Friday, so you can meet your NC daddy,” she said as we walked down the cavernous, glistening halls of the NC legislative building.
My mind bristled. “What? Wait. You don’t know me. My daddy lives in Dallas.” So, in my most deferential, always-respect-your-elders voice I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to.”
Truth be told, I thought her statement was weird. She knew nothing about me. Well, almost nothing. We’d met a mere several months ago. She chaired a committee on Youth Violence Prevention, and I had somehow managed to get on her committee. She ran that committee with a joy, healthy skepticism and authority that left me practically speechless, until she called on me.
I noticed that with every passing meeting she began to call on me more and more until after a while, it only took a “look” from her to know that it had been too long since I’d added my voice to the conversation. Soon we began to talk after the sessions, just light chit-chat.
“Where are you from?”
“How did you get to Duke?”
A job after finishing my degree at UNC-CHapel Hill.
“Do you have family in North Carolina?”
I don’t really have family west of the Mississippi.
Hot fried fish. Hearty, belly laughs. Corn. Kind touches. Potatoes. Political insights. Desserts. Dirty jokes. All of these were ingredients of my first meal in her home that Friday and countless other meals to follow.
To be clear, I wasn’t her only “daughter,” she had many. Her heart was so vast that she would have had many more daughters if there were more hours in the day. “This is my daughter, Dr. Donna-Marie Winn.” Always my whole name. Always my title. She’d say it boldly and often, anytime and anywhere, always evoking feelings of warmth and deep pride within me. She’d even brazenly claim me as her daughter in front of her church congregation and my biological mother. Both situations required further explanation afterwards.
That she decided to claim me as her own changed my life. Being showered with her protection, affection, connection, and correction did that even for a 30-something year old, strong-willed woman like me. It was because she accepted me fully into her life that NC began to feel like home. I began to claim myself more fully. I began to feel a more urgent, internal push to live my purpose out loud.
It has been nearly 20 years since Senator Jeanne Hopkins Lucas claimed me for the first time and nearly 9 years since she did it for the last. She made her transition on her own terms — with as much caring, intellectual clarity, and compassion as only she could do. I was blessed to be there to bear witness as she slowly turned her gaze towards the hereafter.
My “You-don’t-know-me’s!” stopped that first Friday night, before I left her home. My “Why-me’s?” Have virtually subsided. But, my “Thank-God-you-chose-me’s” will continue. Forever.