From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

Excuse Me, Who’s Just Another Statistic?

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

“Are you pregnant?” asked my eighth-grade teacher.

“Yes.” My answer was barely audible.

The full broomstick skirt I had made in my home economics class no longer concealed my protruding belly. At the tender age of thirteen, I was six months pregnant and had gotten that way the same day I lost my virginity. My teacher marched me to the principal’s office.

It’s been forty-nine years and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the expressions on my teacher’s and principal’s faces: a combination of sorrow and disgust. But, even more so, I will never forget their penetrating words.

“What a tragedy. She’s an honor roll student,” my teacher said, with tears in her eyes.

“And now all she will ever be is just another welfare statistic,” the principal responded.

Their words pierced my heart like arrows and echoed in my head, adding judgments and anger to my already overburdened load of emotions, “. . . just another welfare statistic.

When Mama suspected I might be pregnant, she took me to the doctor for an examination. A single parent herself with five children and two jobs, all she needed was another mouth to feed. When the doctor suggested that because of my age I should have an abortion, my mother asked me what I wanted to do. What a dilemma! I didn’t want to be a mother, but the alternative seemed even worse.

My childhood hadn’t been easy and motherhood would be even harder, but I made my choice. In spite of her deep and understandable disappointment, Mother said, “Well, we are going to have a baby!” She supported me—no matter what!

This year I celebrated my sixtieth birthday. My son is forty-seven. Today, I am an ordained minister married to a wonderful man of God who is highly respected throughout the country. I have established numerous ministries throughout the city of Detroit and authored five books. We have received a Point of Light Award from former President George Bush for our community service work. I have mentored many single mothers and young girls over the past twenty-five years, emphasizing that they don’t have to be just another statistic.

If you’re going to count me among your statistics, consider this: that I graduated from high school with honors at the age of sixteen, have never been on welfare and this year was voted “One of the Most Influential African American Women in Metropolitan Detroit.”

Minister Mary Edwards

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