Ledbetter is one of the great communities in Texas in which to live and raise a family. Of the many tributaries that flow into the river of community, the act of intentional inclusion may be one of the most important. To be included is at the heart of essence of community.
When I was about ten years old, living in inner city Houston, Jimmy Strickland, Bobby Watson and Manfred Gobert conspired to form a secret club. I have no recollection of why it needed to be secret or what the secret was that we were keeping. I do remember that the clandestine nature of the club raised the level of intrigue and importance of club membership. We singed a benign oath in spit using a stick that Jimmy Strickland had sharpened with his Old Timer. We were going to sign in blood but we downgraded the severity of the initiation rite because Bobby refused to use Jimmy’s knife to make his finger bleed. That seemed to dilute the oath that obligated us to be friends for life to a blurry commitment to be pals until we graduated from David G. Burnett Elementary.
The first order of essential business was to build our club house in the vacant lot behind our house. With an eye for permanence we gathered every scrap board we could scrounge from the trash piles around the neighborhood and a piece of tin siding that had fallen off the chicken house at
Bobby’s house. We worked for a week on that club house every day after school. With the metal roof tied down in place we were ready for our first meeting. Only two necessities were needed to protect our opaque agenda. One was that we needed a look out. Every secret club needs a look out. We elected my six year old sister, Gaynell, to fill that post. I think we promised her that she could throw a foil wrapped potato in the fire the next time we bake spuds. I don’t know what has come over parents not letting their ten year old sons play with fire.
The other club necessity was a sign that I personally designed and executed with a brown Crayola on a cardboard shirt insert from the cleaners that I got from my dad. The sign plainly read: NO GIRLS ALLOWED and I nailed it to front door. There was no boy among us older than eleven. We had no clue what it was that we were prohibiting with this juvenile assertion of our maleness but we had now declared our identity a boyish declaration of who we were excluding.
Few clubs can functionally survive with a commitment to exclusion. Ours didn’t. And where ever there is true community you quickly discover that spoken or unspoken there is an open armed commitment that values inclusion. No one is left out.
Exclusion is a regressive immaturity. It can, as in our club’s case a chronological immaturity. We hadn’t grown up. The only way