Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sunday Night Reflections
In 1968 my family and I moved to Mississippi. My father was the pastor of a small country church. One night as we drove into town, we came upon a house that was on fire. I had never seen a fire of this magnitude. The flames leaped toward the sky as if the very demons of hell were trying to touch heaven, and maybe they were. From where I sat in the backseat of the car, I could feel the intense heat of the flames on my face. I remember some men standing off to the side, which seemed rather strange. An older African American man lived in this house. Was it a lynching, a hate crime? I don't know, I just remember my father saying that there was nothing we could do now and we drove on.
Mississippi was the last state to integrate the public schools. Prior to moving to Mississippi, I had always gone to school with all children, in fact, I had no idea that there was such a thing as segregation and integration. In 1970, when it became known that the state would no longer be able to allow segregated schools, the talk throughout the community was that of fear. A private school was quickly formed and my parents were told that my brother and I would be able to attend. My parents took a stand and said no, that we would attend the public school. With all that I had heard, I was afraid and I wanted to be safe and go to the private school.
The first day of school came and off I went, so afraid. What would these new children be like? Would there be the fights and the trouble that I had overheard the adults talk about? As it turned out, the African American children were just as afraid of me as I was of them. Nothing happened. I became good friends with one little girl who was beautiful, kind, generous and funny. Over the course of the year, I learned that there were good teachers, bad teachers, and teachers with an agenda be it African American or Caucasian. There were fights, but not because of race, just children being children. The next year, seeing that we had survived, many of my friends returned to the public school and life slowly began to move on.
There have been so many times throughout history where evil has prevailed...for a time. The Holocaust, the genocide in Cambodia are just a couple of modern day examples. Just today it was reported that the same militant group who burned the Jordanian pilot, beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians. How will this end or even when? Only time will tell.
Sometimes, when we are confronted with the evil of this world, at that given moment, there's nothing that we can do. But I believe, that in time, a situation will present itself where we can make a choice, a choice to take a stand or a choice to go along. I was only a small child, 11 years old when I was sent off to school to take a stand against racism, fear and hatred. It wasn't a role that I wanted, at least not at that age, but it taught me lessons that I would never have learned otherwise and I am so very grateful.