A few days ago, on an interview with a prominent black preacher, I heard him speak of a sense of somebodiness needed among young black males. He talked about the harm that is done to them and others around them because they lack a sense of their somebodiness.
Somebodiness is the belief that one is worthy to be loved and of importance to someone. The opposite is a belief that you are a nobody, meaning someone who has nothing of value to give to the world.
I was once that person, thinking that if I were not in the world, nothing would change. I couldn’t recognize that I was needed. I spent my days from ages 19-21 playing Bid Whist, drinking beer, and reading books.
No one told me that I was somebody. The people around me had no concept of their own somebodiness, so they could not identify mine. I married at age 19 just to escape my mother’s house, and I accepted that I would never accomplish anything worthwhile in the world. But, I also tried to not hurt anyone or cause someone else any grief.
As I noted before, my life changed with the death of my sister, Joann. I have been thinking of her a lot lately, mainly because as her oldest child ages (she will be 53 this year to my 68), she is starting to look so much like her mother that I find myself wondering what my life would have been like if Joann had lived to raise her own children.
Would I have continued seeing myself as a nobody, offering nothing to the world, or would God have intervened in my life eventually to let me know that as a child of God, I was born somebody. There is no way to know, but because my sister died and left four babies, the trajectory of my life changed.
I found my sense of value as a mother to her four children and a son of my own. I found my worth in realizing that no one else could love them as I did or understand what they needed in terms of affirmation of their somebodiness than me, someone who grew up without that saving grace.
So, how do we convince the children growing up in poverty that they are somebody worthy of a great education, affordable housing, and safe spaces? How do we persuade poor parents that they have something valuable that their children need, namely their love, and that just because they don’t have money to buy their kids all of the latest gadgets, they are still somebody?
How do we change a culture in which people’s recognition of their and other people’s sense of somebodiness is measured by how much money people have, the model of cars they drive, the size of their houses, or their celebrity status? Even though, I must tell you, that when I see the Kardasian/Jenner sisters seemingly trying to out-naked each other, I think that they have some somebodiness issues.
For me, change must begin in the homes and communities, because it still takes a village to raise children. What children see and experience in their neighborhoods impact how they come to understand who they are and what they have to contribute to the world. They must be encouraged and uplifted to believe in themselves as special and valuable.
But even more important to me is the role of the churches or religious institutions in instilling in children and adults that God loves them and that in His eyes, we are all somebody, masterpieces in production. Isaiah 64:8 states, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
God loved us all so much that He gave his only Son to take on our sins and give us a chance for eternal life. That makes us somebody! I wish someone had told me these things early in my life, especially as a lonely teenager starved for love and for someone to tell me that I was somebody important to them.
We all need a sense of our somebodiness! The lack thereof costs the world too much, in terms of the knowledge and creativity lost when nobodiness is so prevalent.