Archive for the ‘#Martin Luther King’ Tag

My friend was black

At least a head taller than me, Zach was large for a boy his age.Whatever came his way  he seemed assured, confident and ready to take it on. But, it was not with anger, resentment or violence. He stooped to no one, cowered to none, and stood up for those who befriended him; like me. That is the way I saw him. I thought him a ‘cool guy’. We laughed and joked, talked about the things we liked and the  homework we hated. He was the only black boy in our junior high school in a mostly all white town, with an increasing number of Hispanics moving in to the community adding to the diverse mixture of the ever growing, burgeoning population.

That was sixty years ago. I did not know then or realize until much later how important the lesson learned to treat all whatever one’s color, faith, genetic background or intellectual abilities with a genuine kindness, consideration and respect. During the sixties era with the civil rights movement and unrest, the KKK, the mayhem and protests that followed  a man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. put a name to it and fought peacefully to stop it. It was discrimination at its worst. And today once again it rears its ugly head.

Growing up with friends like Zach taught me a valuable lesson on what a friend is, and who will stick up for us when we are faced or confronted with a situation while seeing others pull away to join ranks with a bigoted crowd. Those are the ones who cannot ‘walk the talk’ of equality and tolerance because they fail to cultivate the soil from which they came.

Zach was teased, harassed and made fun of because he was a lone, black boy in an all white kids’ school and town. It did not matter to the other kids that he was a smart kid, a nice kid with a soldier father serving in the U.S. army. They just found no good reason to like him, because he was black. But, I found plenty and it made no difference about the color of his skin. He was genuine, honest, had respect for others and came from good soil, cut from the same cloth like Martin Luther King Jr. Growing up I heard adults talk about ‘hooligan kids’ who came from ‘bad seed’. But, there is no bad seed with God who created us all in His image. We are a product of the soil or environment from which we grow in, and that which we cultivate.

Zach came from good soil; nurtured, taught and raised to respect the ways of others, their ideals and perspective on life. That is what I saw in Zach that drew me in, to accept him as my friend. When the situation was reversed and it was me who was harassed or bullied he stood up for me and let others know he would not allow a friend of his to be treated in such a way, and the kids backed off. He did not fight back with raised fists, shouting insults or use foul words.

White or black, brown or otherwise. We are all like a seed in the soil of our environment and in it we can grow, cultivate and bloom under one sun, under one nation  with God’s grace and mercy. The choice is ours in how we choose to live, and how we want our voice heard. Protest is not the answer to a problem much bigger than that which we are faced with. Choose not to hate. Choose not to throw bricks or sling insults back with anger and violence. Choose instead to love another regardless of the color of their skin, background or ethnic heritage and treat them as if they are the children of God, because they are, and so are you.

________________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter (June 2020)

 

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