Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock on the Internet, you’ve seen the joyful Ms. Virginia McLaurin, all 106 years young, dancing with President Obama and the First Lady in the White House. Ms. McLaurin was invited to the White House to celebrate Black History Month and fulfill her biggest wish: to meet the first African-American President of the United States.
What you may not know, and what should inspire you even more is Ms. McLaurin’s amazing story of grit and generosity.
She was born in South Carolina in 1909 and moved to DC in 1941, the same year her husband died while serving in World War II. Throughout her life she made her living alternately as a seamstress, nanny, and a housekeeper. She was honored for her incredible volunteer contributions in the District of Columbia by former Mayor Vincent Gray in 2014. Her volunteer service at the age of 104 was simply remarkable: she spent 40 hours per week volunteering with severely mentally and physically disabled children at the Sharpe School near her apartment. In 2014, a group of people started a Faceboook page and petition at the White House to fulfill her biggest wish–to meet the President of the United States. That petition was answered and the rest is you tube viral history.
But here’s what you may not know: Ms. McLaurin was providing exemplary service even as she was struggling under deplorable living conditions. In 2014, her apartment was so ridden with bed bugs that she was forced to throw out all of her clothes and furniture and was sleeping on an inflatable mattress on the floor. Her landlords were so irresponsible, residents would often get trapped in the elevator or not have heat. The bugs in her home were so bad when WJLA television crews were called to her apartment they were literally crawling on her skin.
When you see her joy, you should also see her resilience, her strength, and her fight to live in a world where accessing the basic necessities can be a daily struggle, especially for people of color. You should see how anyone can serve–no matter the excuse. So here’s celebrating DC’s most incredible volunteer–Ms. Virginia McLaurin. If this story doesn’t inspire you serve and make a difference–we don’t know what else will.