My parents, Jack and Lucile never said an unkind word about people of color. The “N” word was never said or tolerated in our home. Dad employed Black men at his printing company. Mom hired Black women as maids and as trusted babysitters. As a Cy-Fair ISD School Board Member Dad fought for integration of Cy-Fair Schools.
Outside my immediate family we had a relative whom I, as a five-year-old boy, loved dearly. I wanted to be like him. To think like him. To treat others like him. View others like him. He did not see people of color the way that God did or does.
At age five I did what most other kids do to be like those they love. I wanted to emulate the relative I looked up to even if he looked down on Black people. My relative is dead now. But the memory I regret and which I share in this prayer will never be forgotten by me.
From hearing my relative talk, I, at age five, saw African-Americans as he did. They were lesser. Different than me. They could be ignored, disregarded, and treated with indifference.
Armed with this attitude, I held a loaded water pistol in my right hand as I sat in the backseat of a car. My uncle (not the relative) had driven me and my cousin to the old Fairbanks Grocery Store. The store was a long narrow white frame wooden rectangular building set three feet up on cinder blocks. The store was just beyond the railroad tracks along Old Hempstead Highway. To the south of the tracks was the all Black Carverdale community. To the north of the tracks was the predominantly white town of Fairbanks.
Waiting in the parking lot, I looked out the backseat window to my left. In the backseat of the car next to me a young Black woman sat with a small child in her lap. I thought it would be fun to pull out my water pistol and point it at the Black lady and spray water on her.
My cousins and I had fun that summer battling one another with water pistols. This lady was far from a cousin. She was a stranger. It did not matter to me that she might be offended if I fired the water pistol at her. At age the age of five I should’ve known better than to treat the Black lady with such disrespect and incivility.
I aimed the water pistol at her and sent a blast of water her way. She gave me a stare that caused me to drop to the floorboard. After waiting a little while, I popped up and fired a second shot of water at her. Then, I ducked out of sight below my window.
As soon as I fired a third shot, the lady let me know in strong words she was not pleased. She angrily stared at me and said, “Boy, I don’t care who you are. If you shoot me one more time with that water pistol, I am getting out of this car. I am coming over there to give you a big ass whooping!” Frightened, I hid on the floorboard until my uncle returned from shopping. I asked my cousin not to tell his father what I had done.
I rode in silence all the way home to my uncle’s house. As soon as the car was parked in the driveway, I remained outside on the swing and thought about what I had done. I was ashamed. I had hoped my uncle would not find out what happened. However, my cousin who witnessed the event spilled the beans.
Out the back door came my uncle making a beeline straight for me. As I sat on the seat of a swing, my uncle stood sternly over me. He said, “Bubba, I heard what you did, and it was very wrong. In our family we don’t treat people like that. I better never hear of you doing anything like that again.”
All children are born to naturally love others. Hate is something children learn.
As I evolved in my faith, and as a child of God in adulthood, I learned that God wants us to see others as He does. God does not see the color of the skin of His children. Nor does God see my appearance as a wheelchair bound polio survivor.
God only sees the heart inside you and me. God saw the heart of that nice Black lady who was treated so disrespectfully by me on that hot summer day long ago in front of the Fairbanks Grocery Store in the early 1950’s. I wish had seen her heart that day the way God looked on it. If she had been a white lady, I would never have pointed my water pistol at her.
Because God knows my heart now, I have been forgiven even though I will never forget what I did.
God has spoken in Scripture about how God sees His children.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Let us pray.
Dear God, because I am human, I use my earthly eyes to see others as they appear in my sight. In prayer, please help me to see others as You do. You do not see the color of Your children. You see their hearts.
God, please open the eyes of my heart to see by brothers and sisters, strangers and friends, as You.
God, with eyes of Your grace may I see the dignity, beauty, and Your spirit in all people. I thank You for seeing my heart and the hearts of others, hearts in need of healing and lives in need of mending by Your bountiful love. Amen
If you think Jack’s prayer helps you or will help someone you know, please forward it to them. Jack may never make millions selling books or writing prayers, but spreading God’s good news to others is reward enough for him.
Ann Boland, Jack’s Publicist