I was born decades after Dr. Martin Luther King’s legendary address in our nation’s capital – and 31 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat.
Being born in 1986, I obviously have never experienced the pains and fear of segregation. My only knowledge of the civil rights movement, I gained from movies or read about it in history books, including the impact on and of my grandfather’s ministry.
This picture of my grandfather and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. captures the friendship of two men who were determined to end segregation.
My grandfather was so burdened – and appalled – by the segregation that some cities wanted to enforce at his meetings that he went in and physically took down the ropes that were put up as dividers in the auditoriums. His friendship with Dr. King would help him build bridges in places where segregation and racial tension was at its highest. His friend (he called him Mike) event spoke at several Crusades.
Over the last few years, with our country’s first African-American President and cases such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, we have all witnessed that racism is still alive and breeding deep in the souls of some Americans. In some ways, this country stands more divided today than it has in the last 30 years.
Just last month, I walked into a gas station late one night while traveling with my little girl. For the first time in my life I felt uncomfortable walking into a building because of my skin color. Margaret and I were the only white bodies in the building. And I remember looking down at my curly-haired little girl who was smiling brightly at the gentleman before her. I told her, “Can you tell this nice man hello?” She excitedly smiled even bigger and waved hello. She had no idea of the flood of emotions that seconds before had overtook me, and in that moment her innocent joy melted my heart and away all of the fears I held. I never want her to see that man any different than she did.
I wish we all could look at one another as my innocent daughter Margaret does. She doesn’t care if one is red, yellow, black or white, everyone is precious in her sight, just like the song I sing to her. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_xdkk_sXgA)
While we were on the same trip, we walked into a restaurant where there was a black family with a little girl about Margaret’s age. I stifled my own inner-voice and found courage and encouragement for my daughter in that moment. I looked straight into her eyes – a mother just like myself – and smiled at her and told Margaret to say hello. Once again, my innocent one-year-old grinned and waved in delight. As soon as Margaret lifted her tiny hand to wave, I felt all the tension go away.
In those moments when my grandfather was fighting segregation and racial tension he constantly reminded all those who would listen that hatred and racism are fundamentally spiritual problems. He even went as far as to tell officials in Little Rock, Arkansas, that he would refuse to come and preach if they wouldn’t allow an integrated crowd to attend. He continued to preach God’s love and that we are to love as He loved us, regardless of all else.
We can choose to love one another.
We can choose to teach our children, that Jesus died for all men no matter the color of our skin and we are all created equal.
Join me today as I pray that God will place godly men and women in positions to help to once again lead this country to healing; to raise up men and women who will place political agendas aside; who will not push to further divide a hurting nation but only pursue righteousness and agendas that unify all with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.