As I read through the posts from my Multiply blog and decide if there are any that I want to live on, there is one that I want to save here. This one may not be the only one, but it’s the one blog I remember I enjoy reading due to what I felt as I wrote the blog. The blog is not well written. I may be a bit better writer now than I was when the blog appeared in 2007, but not that much better. Here is the blog in its entirety:
Occasionally I make reference to David Letterman comedy bits (EXCEPT FOR MY PANTS). Letterman is one of the most consistently funny people on TV, as far as I am concerned. One bit he has had on his show is his “Brush With Greatness” segment. Letterman selects people in his audience to talk about famous people they have met. There are always chuckles as someone tells about meeting Elvis’ cousin or something similar.
Everyone has had or will have a brush with greatness. I have had a few. One I am thinking about tonight came at a moment that might qualify as one of the most uncomfortable moments in my life. It’s one I hesitate to talk about. The reason will be obvious shortly.
My daughter, Alyssa, is a cute little curly-haired redhead. She is very fair skinned, with freckled cheeks and ice blue eyes. Alyssa has had to deal with being noticed her whole life, as people stop just to comment on her hair. It is not really something she enjoys, if only because she is also a bit on the shy side. I tell her it’s a price she has to pay for being so pretty!
One of Alyssa’s best friends has always been our neighbor’s daughter, Kharis Lewis. Kharis is a boisterous girl and she also happens to be black. Don’t call me racist for saying that, yet. It’s important for this story. The girls have a lot in common, in particular our families share a common belief in Jesus. We love our churches. Kharis has been to our church many times and Alyssa has gone to youth choir at Kharis’ church. That common belief is also what gives this story a bit of a twist.
Not too long after Alyssa went to choir practice with Kharis at her church, Kharis’ mother (Ella) thought it would be nice if Mir and I would bring Alyssa to their church one Sunday morning to hear Kharis sing in the church choir. We liked that idea. Ella is a great lady to talk to, but we thought it would be a good chance to get to know her better. We accepted the invitation.
Their church was a small Baptist church in Wheaton, Illinois. As we pulled into the gravel parking lot of the church, it was nice to see all the people dressed in their Sunday best — ladies with shawls and large hats, men in suits. Our church is very casual, so it was a change for us. We were dressed nicely as Ella had told us how people would be dressed. Ella met us at the side door from the parking lot. The service was about to start and she had reserved us seats in the second row from the front. Coming in from the side entrance would get us into the auditorium a little easier.
It also meant that we would come in right in front of everyone, as the church service was starting. All eyes were on us as we entered. We were the only white people in the auditorium.
And that should have been OK. We felt a little strange, but we were OK. Having a little fair-skinned redhead with us made us stand out a little more. It was kind of fun to see the people there sneak glances at us. As the singing began, things got better. The music rocked and the people in the congregation sang with enthusiasm. I loved it. I am used to loud music at church as our church has a rock band most every weekend. The singing was what was unique to me. I am not sure I have heard anything quite as good since.
After the singing, there was a choir special. It was great to hear Kharis in the choir. She was proud to be singing for us. We were proud of her.
The regular preacher was not speaking that morning. There was a guest preacher from a large church in Chicago. Ella was excited to get a chance to hear him speak as he was very well known. As he approached the pulpit, it seemed like he was paying particular attention to the pew we were in. It was quite noticeable.
Had I known why, I would have left the auditorium as swiftly as possible.
Don’t ask me what scripture the preacher used for his text that morning. I am not sure if he even referred to the Bible. Certainly he did, but what I do know is that the message he delivered that morning was not one from the Bible. What I do know is that it was a message he had not intended to deliver in front of a congregation that contained people with white skin. It was a message that showed me that racism is alive and well, and it’s not just something reserved for rednecks. All eyes were not directed at the preacher during his sermon, for he was spewing out his hatred for the white man. The white man was the reason why the black man could not get ahead, he was the one holding them down. I had never heard hatred preached from the pulpit. I held my head high, though and listened. The sermon would have been a long one, I think, had we not been there. However, the “amens” that would have kept the preacher going were very few.
The auditorium was very silent as the preacher finished. The singing was very subdued following his words. It made me wonder if this man really knew the people he was preaching to. Perhaps God had placed my redheaded little daughter and my family there that morning for a reason.
At the end of the service, there was a time where everyone was asked to greet the people around them. I found that a little odd. Usually that is an exercise given at the beginning of a church service. A very large, strong-looking man in front of us turned around. I recognized him. He was Leon Spinks, a 1976 gold medal Olympic boxer and a heavyweight who had beat Muhammed Ali. Had I not heard a sermon about how the white man was still oppressing the black man, I think I would have been more excited about meeting Leon Spinks!
I don’t want this post to be about racism. It exists and it is something that I loathe. When I was 7 years old, a black man pulled my arm through a fence and tried to break it. He made it obvious that he did it because I was white. I still remember that very clearly. Somehow, I always thought it was my fault, even though I did nothing to provoke it. Throughout my life, I have always gotten the feeling that people expect me to be prejudiced because I am white. It’s something I have always worried about — I don’t want to be that way. But things I hear coming out of my mouth sometimes make me wonder if I am. It makes me sad. It makes me wonder if it is true.
Some day, it’s not going to matter.
That was a brush with greatness I will remember, but not because of the celebrity I met that day.