When Althea Porter seriously injured her vocal chords in high school in Alabama, she didn’t realize at the time why that would change her life.
“I injured my vocal chords cheerleading,” Porter said. “We didn’t have good insurance and my voice became so hoarse that my mom came to get us and brought us up to Boston. The doctors were better up here.”
Porter, 17 years old at the time, didn’t realize that injury would give her a better lifestyle. She took a nonstop train to Boston with her sister and mother – a train that would act as a carrier of one lifestyle to a completely different one.
“The scenery was so magical to me when I was on the train,” she said. “It took my breath away. I was glued to the window because I felt like I accomplished freedom.”
“If I stayed in the South, I’m not sure my life would’ve been as prosper,” Porter said.
Porter, 58, was born in Panola, Alabama – a little town about 60 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa. Growing up, she mostly worked on her grandparents’ farm with her 13 siblings.
“When I was growing up down South, I didn’t go to school if I didn’t want to,” Porter said. “We did the best we could, but because my grandparents were sharecroppers, we had to plant and stuff.”
Now, Porter didn’t just work on the farm. She had a social life with her friends from school. She was a girl scout, a cheerleader, and a member of the band.
Graduating English High School in 1975 just outside of Boston, Porter recalls not missing any part of Alabama.
“We didn’t want to go back because we loved going to school in Boston,” she said.
The one regret Porter has is not pursuing higher education right away. Because of her obligation to her grandparents’ farm, she said she wasn’t pushed to pursue education like she wanted.
“Back in those days it was about survival and being obedient,” Porter said. “I was always picking up things to read because I wanted to be a doctor. I regret not pursuing my education, but I think I didn’t do it because my parents weren’t educated enough to push me.”
In Alabama, Porter wanted to be a doctor. But in Boston, her interest changed to teaching. She attended Boston State College in 1976 but didn’t graduate because of some problems. Around this time, she noticed a young man at the bus stop. He eventually gave her a ride when her bus was late while she was on her way to work.
“I didn’t even like him at first,” said Porter. “I turned him down constantly.”
Several years later in 1984, the two married and moved to Brockton. They moved to Easton a few years later. In 1988, she gave birth to her first child, Jamie Lee.
“My daughter is studying to be a forensic psychologist at Walden University now,” said Porter. “I have such well-rounded children. She used to play softball at Oliver Ames High School years ago.”
Two years later, Solomon was born. He played football at Oliver Ames High School and is studying to be a doctor.
“I want to give them a chance to fulfill their dreams,” Porter said.
Porter’s husband died in February 2010.
Today, Porter is relishing the retired life. With two children pursuing their dreams, she is now involved with the Messiah Baptist Church, the church she found while looking for a place to christen her daughter over twenty years ago.
“Different churches would turn me away because I wasn’t a member,” said Porter. “I was looking for a home. I just wanted to christen my daughter. But, I went to Pastor Walker and his door was open. I’ve been here ever since.”
In 2002 she decided to go back to college. In 2006, Porter graduated from Curry College with a degree in psychology.
“I loved working with the mentally challenged,” she said. “I loved that work. It wasn’t a lot of money but when I came home I can sleep at night and I would wake up with a smile on my face. By me being a teacher to them, they taught me also. Sometimes growing up poor, they don’t call you mentally challenged to your face, but you feel it. So being able to help them helped me.
Porter doesn’t just preach her faith, but truly lives it.
“This guy was coming back from church,” Porter said. “He had oxygen in his nose, pushing a walker, and he just looked sad. There was no one helping him and tears came to my eyes. So I jetted home, got my two kids, and shoveled his house. I don’t know his name. I didn’t ask any questions. But, you can sleep at night when you do the right thing.”
Around Christmas of 2014, a child randomly called her saying he forgot his lunch money.
“I don’t know how old this kid was, but he called my house and said ‘Momma, you forgot to give me my money for lunch!’” Porter said. “I told him I think he has the wrong number, but the kid kept talking. So I asked him what school he went to. He told me and I said ‘OK, but try to call your mom again.’”
Porter wanted him to try his mother again because he probably misdialed by one wrong number.
“When I hung up, a presence came over,” she said. “I told myself, let me go pay for this babies’ lunch. I went to the bank and got extra money for other kids’ lunches as well.
To this day, Porter doesn’t know who the child was that called her house that winter morning.