The man dreamed of a day when we could all be judged, “not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.” I hope that day comes while I am still here, but it’s not looking that way.
I heard a story from a lady where I was called to preach last Sunday about my mama. This lady, whose name I won’t use because she didn’t say I could, is 95 and knew my mama when she and my grandmother lived in a hotel in Social Circle in 1941 because they didn’t have any other place to be. We call that being homeless these days. In those days they just called it making do.
I knew my mama lived through some hard times, but I guess I didn’t realize just how hard. Hearing that story on Sunday helped me to better understand how proud she was of the little four-room mill village house in which I was raised.
Naturally, since I can’t go 45 minutes without posting on Facebook, I made a comment about what I had learned along with a semi-snarky remark about “white privilege,” because I’ve been kind of tired of hearing about that lately.
Not surprisingly, a lot of my friends chimed in with their own stories about their own childhoods, and none of us had much. We were all raised in what was basically the rural South in the 1950s. Of course, none of us knew how little we had, and we’ve all done good.
But one of my friends, whose name I won’t use — again, because she didn’t say I could — told a great story about when she was just getting started in school. This friend happens to be an African American lady who is a very successful business woman. I could hear the chuckle in her typed words when she said that her teachers called her parents in and told them that she could read really well, before adding “especially for an under-privileged child.”
I’m glad we can laugh about it now because the only privilege she lacked, in the eyes of that teacher and the world, was white skin. Like me, she had parents and grandparents who loved her and made her behave and sent her to school to learn and do better. Just like me.
My friend, speaking of her circumstances, said that her grandmother was very thrifty and always spoke of “putting back,” instead of “doing without.”
And then my friend said something that I wish the whole world would hear. Notice I didn’t say “could” hear because we all can. God gave us ears. I said I wish we “would” hear it. She said she wished we could all forget about labels and classifying one another and such and just be folks. In fact, she said we should all have a big old pot luck dinner and sit around and discuss such as who still knew how to cook Brunswick stew in a black pot or make pear relish.
This really hit home with me because I had just been talking to Monty Hill’s niece about Mr. Homer cooking Brunswick stew around Christmas time — and about how his stew and Tom Brown’s stew were the best I ever had, except for my mama’s, of course. Mr. Homer Hill was a white man who lived in Porterdale. Mr. Tom Brown was a black man who lived out on Rocky Plains Road. Back in the day, I played at both their houses.
And I was bemoaning the fact to some friends last week that I hadn’t had any good pear relish since my Granny Huckaby died when I was 14. I haven’t been 14 for a long time, and my friend mentioned both those things out of the clear blue, proving, to me, that we are a lot more alike than we are different.
Now my friend and I do have a couple of huge differences. She is a vegetarian. I never met a piece of meat I didn’t like. She is a huge Atlanta Falcons fan. I don’t have enough passion after a Saturday with my Bulldogs to care much about what the pros do on Sunday. But that’s about it when you really get down to it.
I hope we can have that potluck one day soon. And I hope I run across someone who still knows how to make pear relish, because I could sure use a jar or three.
“Not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.” Great plan.