Photo: Stacie Huckeba

The Purposeful Community

“It takes a village” is an age-old idiom which is too often applied in hindsight. The wellbeing of children, or all people, by that matter, is an indentured responsibility of the people in their community. However, as with most responsibilities, it sometimes flies under the radar — other times, it can be hard to determine just how to help those in need. More often than not, it’s the simplest, altruistic efforts which make all the difference.

Such is the case when a small bevy of charitable East Nashvillians presents their neighbor, 13-year-old Domonus, who mows lawns to help raise his four siblings while his parents work full-time, with donations including a new lawn mower, a birthday gift for his little sister, and over $1,100 in cash. But these presenters were part of a much larger effort — a narrative which began on Tuesday, July 23, when local photographer  (and 2017 East Nashvillian of the Year award-winner), Stacie Huckeba, was walking her dog, Earl. They came across Domonus as he was working on a lawn around the block. As they approached, he shut off his mower.

“I was doing this experiment where I engaged people,” Huckeba says of the day she met Domonus. “If somebody checks me out, I’m like, ‘thank you for checking out my groceries.’ Even if it was their job, I was just talking to people that you would normally, you know … just keep going.”

She assured the teen that there was nothing to worry about, that Earl was an old, friendly dog who wouldn’t be bothering him and that he could continue working. But Domonus had actually silenced his mower because the dog had reminded him of one of his own from the past who was scared of loud noises. A brief interaction between two strangers turned warm and comradely, and they got to talking about Domonus’ situation. He mows grass to raise money so that his mom can purchase new clothes and supplies for school; in the meantime, his grandmother raises him and his four siblings while his parents work.

Huckeba posted a picture of her new acquaintance to Facebook, where it quickly took hold, receiving shares and heartfelt comments, some of which offered Domonus new business. Edgehill denizen Kenny Mullins suggested they all pitch in to buy the teen a new lawn mower. The idea galvanized others into action — ultimately, word spread so far about the efforts to help Domonus that singer Will Hoge offered to purchase the new mower, just before Michael Brown, General Manager of the Home Depot on Joyce Lane, offered up a SMARTSTOW® Variable Speed High Wheel Mower (20339) free of charge. In the end, over 100 people and organizations donated to the cause — far surpassing its original goal, and in general going above and beyond the call of duty of a community. Huckeba’s friend Andrea Beth Abernathy aptly coined it The Domonus Effect.

“It just tells you a lot about how we are depriving ourselves of the people around us,” Huckeba says. “And about the kindness of strangers in general … a reminder that your neighbors, the people around you, are good.”