With all the racial unrest I felt it was time to express myself. When I was in first grade, Sharon McCreary’s house burned down. She lived near us. I urged my parents to invite her family for dinner. It was a no go. Her family was black.
We lived in Kennedy Heights, which at the time, was noted to be the most integrated neighborhood in the United States. I could not comprehend why we could not invite the McCreary’s for dinner. My mother was known to be a terrific cook and these folks were in need! Many years later I connected with Sharon. It was sweet to talk with her.
I always attended integrated schools. When I was in high school I was in the minority as a White Anglo Saxon Protestant. We were outnumbered by Black children and Jewish children. It gave me a chance to understand firsthand the dilemma of being a minority. I also learned how very different the Black culture was from how I was raised. And the Jewish culture bewildered me. I even visited the Temple on Plum Street around the time of one classmate’s Bar Mitzva or Bat Mitzva. (Coming of age ceremony.) It is a lovely building, but I almost asked where the cross was. Caught myself just in time before the question left my lips. I was/am so totally given over to Jesus that even at that age I could not comprehend not having Him in my life, or theirs.
In middle school Jackie Gibson gave me a 45 of the Duke of Earl. It was a great song and occasionally shows up today. He was a great fellow though a bit arrogant. He was also constantly teaching the entire class new dance moves whenever the teacher left the classroom. A nice Black fellow. There was a saying that it was better to live near a nice black family than white trash. I did not really understand the saying. I thought people were people regardless of color.
Cecil Williams was one of my favorite friends from school. He always had a kind word and seemed a gentle soul. He was Black. He lived with his grandmother nearby. Her front yard sloped down into a V and then back up to the house. She had a terrific garden with many hanging objects. I so wanted to go in her garden and into her house. I was never invited, but would have loved that. I heard years later from Sharon that he died very young.
I worked for a while at a residential rehab center for women called “Having the Courage to Change.” Lucretia and the gals were fine once they realized I was not a White do-gooder. I was hired as Lucretia’s assistant, taught a Bible study class and mentored some of the women. There were mostly Black women, but Brown and White women, too.
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV) There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. People were enslaved regardless of color at that time. We know that was not the case in American history. Can we learn to love regardless of color or ethnicity? Can we accept that just as we are forgiven by God, sinners saved by grace, so are others? Do we understand that different people have different experiences within the same society, just as within the same family?
Galatians 5:1 New Living Translation says: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” I want to be set free and stay free to love each person who comes in to my life. I admit I sometimes have difficulty with the neighbor that totes his gun while walking his dog and threatens other dog owners. That seems rude. Yet, I am asked to love him. Some sections of the society say I must only love the ones who look like me and think like me. 1 Peter 2:8-10 (NLT2) And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Perhaps He considers us royal Dukes and Duchesses.
No, I have not accomplished this kind of love. I pray the Lord will continue to grow me in acceptance of others, even others I do not agree with. Show us Lord, how to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Help us to be Your hands and feet on earth. You said they would know us by our love, not by our judgement of others. Help us to fulfill Your words, I pray.