…fifty years ago…there was a dream.
For a vast population, remembering this day is filled with awe and pride. It’s remembered as a day of hope and a turning the page. Could life, would life as they knew it actually….change?
I was 6 years old on that day, just about to enter the first grade. My world was so very different on the opposite end of the country, oblivious of that momentous event taking shape on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It would be a lifetime before I would even begin to scratch the surface of understanding. Where I grew up we were mostly ‘white’. People of different cultures didn’t cross thresh-holds much in my home town. If there was someone with darker skin or spoke a different language, it was rare to come in contact, let alone engage in conversation. It would be several years before the eventual Hyphenated-Americans would become more integrated into the mainstream of my particular corner of the world.
As a child I don’t remember sensing any racial tension, although, that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist…because it did. And, as childhood turned into early teens, the momentum of change grew as the 70’s rolled in. These were the years black students began their own journey into our mostly-white schools. This shift was important, as the purposeful intention was to provide quality education while building equality for all Americans… The empowering theme in those days for our African-American citizens became, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Change always feels uncomfortable, even if you think you are prepared for it. I remember feeling somewhat intimidated by the sudden clusters of dark-skinned guys and gals walking through the high school halls. It was like oil and water as we tried to make the best of something we weren’t quite ready to receive.
But, a dream was being realized. Change was happening.
Fifty years since that hot summer day in August. A life time.
I have read the history books. I have watched the movies and listened to testimonies. My heart can weep and my hand of friendship can be sincere. But, scars run deep…evidence shows it takes more than this to overcome…if ever…a deep wound.
One day I had a lengthy conversation with an older black woman. She has seen the transitions in her life time…the horrors our African-American neighbors have endured at the hands of white oppressors. She was angry. She hated anyone white. Until…she heard from the Spirit of God…to forgive. And forgiveness was the last thing she intended to do. Her life of anger and hatred was consuming her and as the Spirit continued to press on her soul, she realized forgive she must.
And…hearing this, I, too, struggled…. she was in actuality…. forgiving me. I had never met this woman before…but, because I am white, I was included in that obedience…even before she even knew me. But, there was another piece. The realization for me to receive that forgiveness. For either of us to heal…forgiveness needed to take place…for both of us. This was something I didn’t quite expect. It set me back on my heels, deeply humbled.
The Cross!! We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t think we particularly needed it.
We certainly did not deserve it.
And on That Day, on the Cross, Jesus forgave. He forgave us! All we need do is….receive it.
The Cross is the only foundation for change.
Dr. King’s words those fifty years ago will truly become reality:
Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last.