During my childhood Tuesdays “our” maid, Pauline, shined our home and brightened my life. Many weeks mom would trade days with Pauline’s Friday employer to prepare for crowded cocktail carousals. I remember Pauline’s laughter, her chess pie, her discipline, her love, and her riding the bus to the west end of Louisville. Like Psalm 103: “as far as the east is from the west.”
I remember Pauline crying only once. The second Tuesday of April I was home from fifth grade to watch a long funeral procession on our colored TV. I recalled being home from first grade on the fourth Monday of November to watch another funeral on our black and white. Pauline watched the funeral with us, soaking her white apron with her tears. I was baptized into her grief as she invited me in by hugging and holding me.
Twenty years later, the thickest book on my shelf was “A Testament of Hope – The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Unlike so many books around it, I actually read this one — moved by his poetic, prophetic preaching. That year, during our annual meeting, the fourth week of April 1988, I was given the Mexico, Missouri “NAACP Drum Major for Justice Award”.
I was astounded. I had attempted to answer Dr. King’s call, but I hadn’t accomplished much. And why an award from the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP? I asked the leader, “Why me? I’m not a C in the NAACP!” She said, “Honey, we’re ALL colored by God — there’s just a variety in the pigmentation.” I realized this award was not one more benefit of my privileged life. I was not apart from others; I was a part of a community sharing a vision of skin tone bringing no power, stigma, fear, or hierarchy. I accepted the appreciation for being part of a kin-dom where everyone equally strives side by side for the betterment of all.
Eleven years ago tonight I was invited to speak when our town’s community gathered at 2nd Baptist Church to remember, celebrate, and be inspired by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I invite you to discern if those words have something to say today.
What is your experience of moving apart from into being a part of whatever “the other” is in your life?