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For years I had a neighbor, Margaret Lynn, who lived near our bay home, Camp PawPaw. She had outlived several husbands and survived breast cancer at 94 years of age. Even then, she was a volunteer with her local church, served at a senior living center, and was the sole caregiver to one of her daughters who was going blind from diabetes. Margaret took care of a neighbor who was an 80-year-old polio survivor. Margaret Lynn was one of those beautiful, caring, and wise old souls.
Each summer, Margaret canned her homegrown peaches. When I was at Camp PawPaw, I took every opportunity to be with her and listen to what she had to say. One of those times I was sitting with her as she peeled peaches on the back porch overlooking the Tres Palacios Bay.
Margaret had many practical sayings I devoted to memory. I have replayed them when I needed to apply them in my own life. I have shared them with others when I thought they might be helpful. This is one of those times.
Margaret said things like, “I don’t want to take up space. I want to do something. I want to help others. I want to be involved and to contribute.” “When I leave this world, I want to be all used up.” She thoroughly used the long life that God gave her for the good of others. Margaret died at age 103.
What I just wrote may appear not to be relevant on a prayer about the death of George Floyd last Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, it is. Other words from Margaret Lynn were shared with me on Facebook by her granddaughter Sissy Brett Taylor who lives in Austin.
Sissy quoted Margaret saying, “Never hold anything against someone that they have no control over” Sissy reflected that Margaret was talking about skin color. “It was given to us by God. All of us, every color. We are equal in His eyes.” Said in different words…The color of our skin is given to us by God. Yet, God sees us as all the same.
The death of George Floyd and the tragic deaths of other black people at the hands of white police officers sadly reminds me that white Americans have difficulty viewing people of color the way God does. Please do not get me wrong. For I do believe that there are millions of Americans, including white police officers, who are color blind and who see and treat their neighbors as themselves.
Due to the fact that I’m older than many of you, I witnessed as a young boy discrimination and hatred toward black people. In the Cy Fair Independent School District Carverdale was an all-black school for African-American children. All of the other schools were for white children only. I remember when the Board of Trustees of the Cy-Fair Independent School District voted to integrate all its schools. My father, Jack, was on the school board at the time and stood up with others on the board to vote for integration. Some parents protested integration. Dad quoted one father who opposed integration saying that he did not want his white daughters to go to school with black male students. There were more than a few white families who left the school district. Wrongfully, they stood up for segregation. They abandoned an inclusive view of the world and embraced their lesser views of humanity and did not see the sanctity of others.
I saw homeowners in upscale, all white neighborhoods massively fleeing their communities just because a well-to-do black couple purchased a home in their neighborhood. The economic losses in home values were dwarfed by the degree to which suffering and heartache took place because of fear, racial hatred, and the failure to love others.
On April 4, 1968 I heard about the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. One who advocated change without violence. Yet, he died from a bullet propelled by hate of a white male with a rifle. With all consuming hate there is no room left for others, for love, or for God.
It is true that there are more civil rights and liberties than ever before. Schools have been fully integrated. But, the events of this week demonstrate that wounds over the past 400 years have not yet been healed. George Floyd and others like him have needlessly died. In his death and others America is reliving the nightmare of racism and not MLK’s dream. The soul of America is crying out for healing and for the appreciation of the sanctity of all human life.
The death of George Floyd underscores the need for everyone who witnesses discrimination or bigotry or racist words to name it, to call it out for what it is and to do what can be done in every way to act as God would have us act….To love our neighbors as ourselves.
God, we pray that Your love comforts George Floyd, his friends and family and all other black men and women, their families and children who suffer because of hatred and racism.
God, we pray that Your love comforts and heals all who have suffered in the past and at present because of bigotry.
God, we pray for the officers who were directly involved in the death of George Floyd, that they take responsibility for their part in this event and that they ask for Your forgiveness.
God, we pray that Your peace descend upon the hearts of all persons such that the violence, riots, and the destruction of property ceases now and forever.
God, we pray that Your loving light washes away the dark stain of racial inequality and bigotry in America.
God, please open our eyes to see others as You do.
God, just as You see all Your children the same, why, oh why, can’t we? Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.