Two weeks ago, 12-year-old Robin Campbell was grief-stricken after she discovered that her pet guinea pig, Stuff, had died suddenly while she was in church. When her first tears began to trickle down her round brown face, she recalled, "there was my father.
"He hugged me. He told me not to worry about it," she said. "He said everything has to die."
Robin, a shy only child who lives with her parents, Debbie and Lynnwood Campbell, in a comfortable black middle-class neighborhood just west of Old Town Alexandria, says she is fortunate to have such an attentive father.
"I was upset that day," Robin says. "I cried on his shoulder, and it made everything better. My father is understanding and patient, and I love him."
Robin and Stuff had been almost inseparable for the last three years. In a very real sense, the fat little rodent had become one of her best friends. It lived in a pen in her bedroom.
Her father, Robin explains, understood all that. Stuff was given a burial in the Campbell back yard.
"I just said a few words over it," said Lynnwood Campbell, a securities accountant for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in the District and a first-year member of Alexandria's school board.
Robin is a good student. So was her father, a Howard University graduate and the first black to attend Alexandria's St. Mary's Elementary School--a fact that led to his insistence that his daughter also attend the school.
"I'm proud of him," Robin says of her father, who leaves the family's comfortable two-story home each morning dressed in a business suit with brief case in hand.
"He's intelligent and strong-willed," Robin says, "But I wouldn't do what he does. I want to be a veterinarian and go to work in jeans."