Red and Yellow, Black and White. . .We Are Precious in His Sight
We all feel blessed when we recognize our parents passed on their wonderful talents and gifts through their DNA, such as the ability to create beautiful art, sing an aria, perform amazing athletic feats or to solve intricate mathematical equations. But one gift I am especially thankful for was not part of my genetic make-up, but rather a gift my mother gave me – unknowingly, by her life example.
When I was ten years old, my mom moved our family to a very small rural town in Oklahoma. It was the summer of 1969 and although the schools had been integrated, the town itself was still segregated by law. Black residents were not allowed to live on the north side of the train tracks, forcing them to exist in a part of the city which had no indoor plumbing or running tap water. Soon after we arrived, my mother landed a job at the hospital as a purchasing agent. After a few short weeks, she became close friends with a co-worker in her office. Her name was Cora, she was a single mother of a little boy. . .she lived with her parents and several other family members in a little three room house on the south side of the tracks. My mom’s best friend was black, and even though it was 1969 and she had a good job with good pay at the hospital, she was not allowed (at that time) to be our neighbor and enjoy a simple thing like an indoor toilet.
That summer between my 5th and 6th grade year, as well as the next, Cora’s mother offered to take care of me while my mom worked full-time. My days were filled with chasing chickens around the yard, learning how to dance (soul-train style) and doing typical kid stuff (playing tag and hide and seek). I remember the first time I had to use the outhouse – I pinched my nose together with my thumb and index finger and looked around at the four wooden walls. Light was streaming in through cracks and holes – time and weather had left – in the gray wood slats. I prayed no peeking eyes were staring in at me. As soon as I was finished with my business, I pushed the door open and ran out to play with my new friends. . .quickly forgetting the unpleasant odor, no trauma or anxiety, just childish acceptance of my new surroundings (amazing how the world looks through a child’s eyes). Although my presence was certainly a spectacle in the neighborhood, I was never made to feel different or like I stood out (which I definitely did). I became part of the family…and I have wonderful memories from that time in my life. Early in the 70’s, the city managers finally passed a new (much belated) law allowing anyone, regardless of race, to live wherever they wanted. Cora, and her sister, moved into a lovely, new apartment just down the street from us. My mother was elated.
Later in life, I realized my mother had given me a unique and precious gift that would stay with me for the rest of my life . . .the gift of color blindness. As I entered into adolescence and adulthood, the gift would not only serve to broaden my horizons and social outlook, but would actually blossom into a rather quirky personality characteristic – I possess a stalker-like attraction to anyone from a different country, who has a unique accent, different language, culture or religious background. Early in our marriage, my husband worked for a Dutch company, so I studied Dutch for several years. Much to my amazement, I was able to converse with some of the wives when they came to the United States. Now he works for an Italian company, so I have spent many hours listening to “How To Speak Italian” CD’s while driving in my car . . “come stai, molto bene, grazie!”
Fortuitously, my job as a fitness instructor has allowed me to interact with people from all over the world – which for me, is so friggin cool! Just two weeks ago, I had three ladies from Russia, two ladies from Japan and two from Israel in one class – truly fantastic. My class – which is done in a circle – is just a small representation of our world today. I feel so incredibly fortunate to work in an environment where my so-called “box” is daily expanded. If I had not been given the gift at such an early age, perhaps I would be striving hard to pull them into my narrow space, but because my mom was a very open-minded, accepting person, I find myself enveloped in a world of nuance, cultural beauty and colorful celebration. Now, it is up to me and the rest of us, to make sure this type of societal color blindness, is passed on to our children. For this gift I have to say…merci, grazie, gracias, spasibo, danke and finally, THANK YOU!!