Like his father, my oldest grandson has the sweetest, compassionate heart. He has been like that his whole life. They lived next door to us when he was little. As a toddler he would bang on their door and yell when I drove up. Of course, Granna always had time to stop in. When it was time for me to leave he would sometimes, most times, cry this heart breaking cry and hang on to me...I couldn't stand it. I would pick him up and take him to my house for 20 or so minutes then he was fine. This went on until he started school. I used to say he chose me but I realize now it was just an outward expression of his inward love... his tender heart.
He and his little brother stay with me a couple of days a week after school. I love that part of being a grandmother. Though, they are already beginning to eat me out of house and home! Sometimes, on Sundays after church he opts to come home with us. He knows more than likely Papaw is going to fall asleep in the recliner and Granna is going to lay down for just a little while and without his little brother there is not much to do except watch movies or play on the computer.
Now that it is football season we watch football movies...Facing the Giants and Remember the Titans are our two favorites. I'll never forget the first time we watched Remember the Titans, he cried because of the car accident and subsequent death of football player, Gary. However, recently, that nine-year-old had another revelation...and was appalled. For the first time he caught a glimpse of the hate that underscored the picture of teenage boys coming together as a championship team. He saw the obstacle the team faced but did not understand racism at all. Needless to say not much napping went on that Sunday afternoon.
He began with the incensed statement: "I can't believe people would treat each other like that just cause they are a different color!" Then the questions began... "That's just not right is it, Granna? Were you alive then, Granna?" Sigh...no it's not right and yes I was alive ...sometimes history is just plain ugly.
I was really fortunate. My parents shielded us from the repulsive part of the racism that took place while we were little. We heard about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr... we celebrated the Voter Rights bill (my mother still registers voters to this day and she is 77!) and we mourned the loss of great leaders in the battle to change the south. Though really, we were much to young to understand until we were older. How much do you tell a fourth grader? Especially one who has never even noticed skin color?
And so, I breathed a prayer and started with the Bible. 1John 4:19-21 " We love because He first loves us. If anyone says 'I love God' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."
We talked a little about slavery, about Lincoln and Frederick Douglas and fast forwarded to Dr. King and voter's rights...we talked a little about Central High School and desegregation. We talked about the hate of man handed down generation to generation and how it was hate that fueled a whole country to mistreat, abuse and neglect an entire population of people... and unfortunately some people still have it.
We finished with the love of Christ who sees sinners and saints - good people and bad people and that the color of their skin does not matter to HIM what-so-ever! That he is lucky to have friends of all colors and that it is up to us; Papaw and Granna, Mama and Daddy, and he and his friends to make sure that it is the love of Christ that we hand down generation to generation.
I caught a glimpse of the realization of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream in the indignation of that nine year old's reaction to the discrimination he saw in the movie. It is my prayer that we Americans, we Christians especially, have finally arrived at the point in time where we truly judge men based on the content of their character and not on the color of their skin.
I heard a politician say one time, "There is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed with what is right in America." and I believe that. What tradition are you passing to the next generation?