I had an experience a few years ago that has stayed with me. I was at a local Starbucks – drinking cocoa and working on some stuff at one of the little tables there when a pair of young policemen came in and sat at the table next to mine. I – being who I am – couldn’t help but listen into their conversation. I expected them to talk about their work – busts they’d made, “bad guys” they’d caught. But they began to talk about their wives – meeting and courtship and marriage. Then one of them told an hilarious story about a trip he’d taken to Alaska – I started chuckling at this point and they both looked over at me. I explained that I was really enjoying their conversation – they grinned at me and carried on. I realized as I listened to these guys that I’d been carrying around some prejudices about law enforcement types – and that these fine fellows didn’t fit the stereotypes I’d maybe built up for police officers. It was eye-opening for me.
I was really blest as I was growing-up to be raised by parents who took a very dim view of prejudice. There weren’t many African-Americans in my community when I was a child,. but I do remember one time when Mom and my brothers and I were walking through a Sears store at the local mall, and a young black family with small children walked by. A white man standing near us turned to my mom and said, “Those people should stay in their own place.” My mom – I am proud to say – was trembling with anger at his words. She told the white man in no uncertain terms that that little family had as much right to be there as anyone else and that we were all God’s children.
I think I’ve shared before the story of a trip I took down to Los Angeles with my dad back in 1975 – only a few years after the Watts race riots. Dad had decided to return to his old neighborhood and check out the home he’d grown up in, and soon we found ourselves driving through an area of LA that was very similar to Watts. I noticed this. Dad did not. And even if he had noticed, he wouldn’t have noticed – if you know what I mean. Dad is one of those people who doesn’t take much note of differences in skin color. He pulled up next to his childhood home, and without hesitation walked up to the door and knocked. A black woman opened the door to us and seemed a little surprised to find these white people standing on her stoop. Dad explained that he’d like to check out his childhood home, and Ruby opened the door wide to us, and let us in. Dad glanced around the home and then walked out the back door and into the yard he’d played in as a young boy. I remember him looking around the yard, commenting on the avocado tree growing there, and mentioning how much bigger the yard had seemed when he was growing up. Then he came back inside the house, shook Ruby’s hand, and thanked her for letting us in. On the way out of the neighborhood we stopped at a gas station to get gas, and the black attendant there seemed as surprised to see us as Ruby had been. After he’d filled up our gas tank for us he thanked us for coming, and said, “Come back again!”
When I think about those policemen at the Starbucks and Ruby and the gas station attendant in Los Angeles, it occurs to me that there’s not really all that much difference between them. Ruby’s home was full of pictures of her children – it was obvious her family was important to her – and the policemen’s stories were full of anecdotes about the people in their lives whom they loved. Ruby and the policemen and the gas station attendant had all been friendly and kind to me. All of them had a sense of humor and knew how to laugh.
Humanity walks on a common ground. I think almost all of us have people we love and care about in our lives. We all laugh. We all grieve. I think most of us want to do right by each other.
It might be helpful to humanity to remember our common ground – to see that whether we’re black or white or red or yellow we are all the children of Love. It might be useful to try to see each other as loving parents might see their offspring – to see each other through the eyes of God, Love, Life.
With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science.
– Mary Baker Eddy