Valiant Wednesday: Mr. Doaty

“At my old school I was bad. I would talk back and give attitude to my teachers.  But now, that I’m here, I don’t do that.”

I stared back at Markez, the scholar that I tutor, with intention, focusing on what he was sharing.

I replied,

“Well why do you think you are respectful to everyone in charge at Valiant Cross?”

“You know, I don’t know” he replied, “I think mainly it’s because they respect me, but they also give me reason to respect them.  Like, Mr. Doaty, even though he isn’t my teacher, he is always showing us how to behave, how to dress, how to speak to people with respect so that others will respect us too. Like recently, he cut his hair short, and it looks really nice.”

IMG_5188My heart smiled a big grin when I heard such innocent and honest words spoken about such a sweet friend.

Jamal Doaty works with me at Common Ground Montgomery, but has a huge hand in the work and efforts happening at Valiant Cross Academy.

This guy is relentless in his consistency with the boys.

Every morning, Jamal or “Mr. Doaty” drives around the neighborhood, picking up the boys for school and in the afternoon he takes them home. He works along side Shane Parks, the teacher over the after school program at Valiant Cross.


He and Shane are like a power house with the boys.

While tutoring you can hear the two of them saying “20 more minutes guys”, “y’all got this”, “keep working hard!”

The two of them always dress to impress, with neck ties and suit jackets. Giving the boys around them even more understanding of professional attire.

They may not notice that they are even sharing those small details with the scholars, but from the outside looking in, it is noticed and highly valued.

Mr. Doaty has shared on multiple occasions with me about his respect and gratitude for Mr. Parks.  “I absolutely could not do what I do without his help and effort. He is truly amazing at what he does.”

IMG_5186Mr. Doaty not only invests his time at Valiant Cross, he also works with boys that are in other public schools in the city.  Weekly, he makes trips to the schools to do remediation work with the the kids there, doing one on one activity, not only improving their education, but showing them consistent relationships.
IMG_5179“Hey Markez, I heard you like Ninja turtles!” I said one day after talking with Mr. Doaty at work.

Markez grinned, “Mr. Doaty told you that, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, he did!” I replied.

“Mr. Doaty knows everything. It’s like I don’t even have to tell him and he knows. He just gets it, you know? “

IMG_5193Of course he does.

Of course Mr. Doaty gets it.

He is always there, he is always encouraging.

Even in the places where it is challenging to help and mentor young boys, Doaty always shows up.

Listening to the scholars has been a major source in learning about Mr. Doaty and all that he does for them.

He doesn’t come with a bag full of presents and games to play.

He doesn’t have a perfect code to relate to the students he works with.

He just simply has a heart that is unwilling to miss out on the opportunity to help advance these kids to their fullest potential.

He is willing to push through the days that seem mundane or frustrating because he cares for the well being of the students.

Mr. Doaty “gets it” because he lives it.

Thanks, Doaty for all you do, it is noticed, it is valued, and it is completely worth it.

A Mother’s Familiarity

There’s something so familiar about my Mother.

The smell of her clothes when we she would head out the door with my Dad for their date nights.

The way she would say “Mornin’, my angel” and give me a big hug while I still had sleepy eyes.

The way she would weekly roll her three daughters hair with sponge curlers every Saturday night (while watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman).


The way she consistently managed to lick her finger to wipe something that always happened to be on mine or my sisters faces right before getting out of the car for school.

The way she smiled and asked about my day when she’d pick me up from school, always having snack waiting.

The way she could make more of a ruckus than anyone while cooking, but her food always beat every other mama in town.

Pot roast every Sunday (insert praise hands).

The way she always had a pitcher of sweet tea ready in the fridge, just in case I had friends come by (and I always did.)


The way she wrote little notes with bible verses before big test days at school.

The sound of her voice on my “first-night-of-college meltdown”.

But I realized this morning, this fabulous Mother’s Day morning that a Mother is actually the one that has all the familiarity, or should I call it Instinct.

She may not realize that she did all these things I found so simply amazing, but she does know her kiddos.

She knows them better sometimes than they know themselves, even if they don’t realize that she does. 

She knew her daughters needed to see a woman who loved her husband the way she loved my Dad, and I’m sure she really needed those date nights too, but their relationship is still as sweet today.


She knew that when we woke up, we needed affirmation and attention with kind words, so she woke up before us to “get in a good mood with her coffee”… or so she says.

She knew our fly-away-curly hair needed special attention for Sunday morning church, but more than anything those nights were really to give us time together as a family, besides who doesn’t love Dr. Quinn???

She knew to get crud off our faces so it didn’t embarrass us at school if someone else called us out… you the best Mama!

She knew to ask sweet questions after school and smile because, let’s be real, school is just a stinker most of the time. (Plus she always brought snacks.)

She knew that one day her kids would value the fact that there was never a TV on during dinner, but a family meal around a table… and she wanted to make sure it was delicious, and y’all…. it always was…. it still is.

She knew that sometimes people come by and they aren’t hungry, but they can be thirsty, and what better drink than sweet tea.  Today, I still have friends that remember “Mrs. Wendy’s sweet tea”.

She knew that more than anything she could say or do, that her kids needed to be reminded that the Lord had their back with everything, so those scripture filled index cards were her tactic. (still have them stacked in my bible.) 🙂

She knew that in moments of tear filled phone calls with her girls that it wasn’t what she said that would fix it, it was being willing to listen.


To my wonderful Mama, you kind, gentle spirit, full of sweetness and a little sass, your girls love you more than you’ll ever know.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Day 24: Southern Smiles

It seemed as if the Southern summer swept in like a wildfire last Friday afternoon.

I hurried to meet Cody Bell to pick up our coffee cart (Market Town Coffee Company) and peddle her a few blocks over to the train shed.

Cody peddled while I power walked beside him, chatting about our days, carrying a little bit of anxious excitement in our bellies about the coming weekend.IMG_3037(Obviously my honey wasn’t up for “stoplight selfies.”)

We made our way along the few blocks of Downtown Montgomery and peddled through booth after booth of southern makers setting up their product with the same anticipation we carried!


 Our set-up was easy in comparison to others who had full fledged booths and “oodles” of goodies to sell.

So we decided to explore a bit before the weekend rush.

We passed all the vendors nodding, waving, and smiling the way good Southerners do with strangers.

The ole’ nod and wave as you pass deal.

but on this day…

IMG_6018I found myself smiling and drooling over so many booths and falling in love with all the people that were working, presenting, and even LAUNCHING their businesses.

IMG_6001Y’all, Alabama Sweet Tea Company was amazingggggg! Bringing all our grandmamas’ and Milo’s tea to shame. 

It was a hit.

Even their yankee tea was delicious!

IMG_6021They left all their customers with smiles and the most beautiful mason jar I ever did see!

I bumped in to Stately Made and O. M. Word…. this girl is SO gifted!

Her stuff was beautiful AND for perks, she is a big time Parks and Rec fan, so obviously, instant friends.

IMG_6006IMG_6015Her stuff is all about embracing the southern states and the blessings they have to offer.

Look at the smile. 

IMG_6008I couldn’t stop staring at that one.^

It’s mine now, and I’m currently contemplating if I’m actually willing to send it to anyone ’cause I can’t stop loving it so much.

IMG_5990We set up our cart next to the entrance of the event, right by Tish’s Cupcakes.

Coffee Cupcake Combo… yes please.

Our Cold Brew Coffee was a hit with the summer heat that graciously blessed us with its presence, suddenly and abruptly this weekend.

We met so many people, old and young, who came out for this event.

At noon, when the gates opened, this place was clamoring with smiling people and live music.

I couldn’t get over the turn out.

IMG_5991We were standing for hours, talking and laughing with folks, enjoying every minute of our opportunity to be a part of this incredible event.

IMG_6037I found myself noticing the power that smiles gave to the vendors and the customers.

It was amazing to witness people stopping at each booth and to actually see both the seller and the customer light up when they spoke to one another. 

The vendors felt empowered by the people who took time to notice the work they had put into their products, whether it was soap, baskets, beer, or greeting cards.

IMG_6053There was abundant relief and peace knowing that every person with a booth around me knew exactly how much work goes into building your own business.

The effort. The hours. Sleepless nights. Long weekends.

But at the same time, I think everyone who moseyed through this incredibly artistic wonderland really valued each person working their tail off to showcase what they worked on so tirelessly.

It’s fascinating to see what happens when we just smile at one another.


I noticed customers that would see our little coffee bike, stop, and look to Cody and I for a smile.

It was as if a smile was their invitation to come closer and try what we had to offer.

We smiled at everyone and they smiled back.

Smiling brought security to the heart and acceptance to the soul.

In all actuality, it was what made the weekend.

I can’t help but notice the kindness of God through the smiles of His children.

IMG_6063On that day, and every day we’re in business, every smile was an affirmation of a job well done.

I often wonder if we as a people are willing to listen to the voice that defines us saying “I am well pleased with you”.

Are we willing to share that defining voice with a smile? 

Inviting others to be defined by that sweet still sound in our spirit? 

Let’s smile today. 🙂