I pretty much had an ideal upbringing in the 50’s here in Nampa. Not unlike “the Beav” shall we say—you know, as in “Leave it to Beaver.” My mom was a typical homemaker, my dad a family practice medical doctor, and there were four of us kids. Other than the usual drama, I know I was blessed to have grown up without any real childhood trauma. At the time, Nampa’s population was roughly 25,000 and was largely lily white. Mexican migrant workers and their families were ”the others” who seasonally came through the area to do harvesting farm work. There was definitely prejudice against them by many in the community. You could hear it spoken, if you listened. I knew of only one black family in town, but there could’ve been more tucked away out of sight. My exposure to other races was minimal. But that’s just how it was.
It pains me now to remember incidences in my childhood when I sang out racially insulting rhymes while playing games. I clearly remember, with great shame and embarrassment, some Halloween costumes that mocked others. No doubt, I participated in casual insults which berated other races. Throughout my childhood and early schooldays I was typically ignorant of the plight of others who were different. I think my wonderful parents were inflicted with this particular kind of ignorance, too, as they otherwise lived out the love of God. Now I see it as such a strange inconsistency. They believed firmly in the “Golden Rule” and Christ being the center of our home. But, paradoxically, something didn’t “click” in this matter at that time. In my memory, no thought was given to the underlying bigotry then. I wish we had known better. But, that’s how it was.
In the late 60’s, as a young woman and new military wife, I remember my first full-time job in Bethesda, Maryland, very far from home. My boss, George, was a young black man who singularly opened my eyes to our common humanity. My window to the world was inched open just a tad. We established a sweet friendship and I got to know his family. About a year later I found myself teaching first grade to a group of international kids. What an eye-opener that was! I began to give thought, to see, to think, to be better. That’s how it was, I was changing.
Because we were a career military family, over the next 2 decades I had a variety of jobs and we lived in several kinds neighborhoods. We were predominately stationed in the Washington DC area, exposed to numerous peoples and cultures. We had neighbors from other lands, thankfully, for the sake of our two daughters. I continued to work with people who were different than me. I remember in my 40’s learning of Ramadan for the first time from a Muslim co-worker. I remember in my office comforting a gay co-worker/friend, when a friend of his had died of Aids. Little by little, my world window inched opened more. Serious thoughts were being given to my ideas about inclusion. That’s how it was, change was continuing.
We retired from military life in the 90s and returned to Nampa to live close to family and to continue working a few more years. Nampa had also evolved. There seemed to be a desire amongst many in the community that “others” were welcome. Diversity was gradually being embraced. Soon I was teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to a young immigrant mother from Haiti and got to know her young family. Volunteer work opened up for me to help in other ways. I felt my heart and mind expanding more. In a much better way, that’s how it was.
Now, in these unbelievably tumultuous days, I am digging even more deeply into my soul. Writing this piece is a part of that process. I’m also reading and listening to the stories of my black brothers and sisters who have suffered generations of injustices. I cry over them. I’m so sorry for my past indifferences and I ask their forgiveness. I am super proud of my small DNA West African connection (1.2%). It makes me feel even more compelled to understand. I want to help bring change towards equal justice under the law. I will listen, be courageous and speak up, and I will vote. Goodness will prevail over the past evil, hurtful and destructive ways of “How it Was.”
Let us pray...
Gracious God, healer of our every ill, thank you for your Holy Spirit who creates in us clean hearts. May the unconditional love of Jesus be our example as we work together to renew a right spirit within and become your better people. Amen.