It’s strange how the smell of your own house is invisible until someone else points it out.
We had lived in our new house a short time. The kids had been begging to have friends over. I asked them who they wanted for their first guests.
They decided on the Gattos.
Now, you have to understand, the Gattos are special. Not just because their kids are so stinkin’ cute, or because they have the sweetest sense of style of anybody I know, but also because they are a colorful family. If you get my drift.
As I imagined inviting them over, I confess I was nervous. Will the neighbors think it’s weird? White kids and not-quite-white kids playing together? I shrugged. Who cares? People can get over it. We need to help people get over it.
All that to say, I was feeling very inclusive as Terrie lugged the car seat into the living room. I thought, “What a good lesson for my kids. We need black friends.”
Terrie and I talked about nothing for awhile. Mom stuff.
I don’t remember who finally did, but one of us finally brought up the subject. You know. The subject you only talk about with someone who’s the same shade you are. Or nearly the same shade. More the same shade than the different people.
The conversation I had with Terrie changed my life. Her story hit me like Lysol on a bad burp.
The longer we talked, the more I detected it. A bad stench existed in my heart that I’d never noticed. A smug, “sure-am-glad-I’m-white” kinda stink. It’s not fun to admit something stinks, but it’s the only way to clear the air. And I do love it when things smell sweet.
Since she tells it better than I do, I asked Terrie to share her story. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Beware, though – it might change your life. I’ve never been the same.
I was raised in a wonderful Christian home. I am a preacher’s kid. My dad pastors an Independent Fundamental Baptist church in West Tennessee. I have wonderful, loving parents who are saved Christians and love the Lord.
As a young girl, I was taught by my parents to love people. It might sound like a simple thing, but when you step back and look at the big picture, loving others really is a big thing. Many people today, are not taught to love, especially to love like Christ. They are taught to love themselves, those that look like them, or those that are in their family; but rarely are people taught to love others.
My parents didn’t just teach us how to love, they showed us by their example. My parents loved people. And it was evident in their everyday life. They weren’t always loved back, but they loved anyway.
Growing up in our home
I never heard my parents refer to people as “black,” white,” etc. When speaking of someone, they would always refer to them as “my friend,” “this lady,” or just call them by their name.
You have to understand, my parents grew up in the time where racism was so rampant in the south, to the point where blacks and whites were segregated. My mom tells stories of going to the movie theater as a young girl and having to sit in the “colored only” section.
My dad has told stories of being called vulgar names with racial slurs, and being shot at and told to, “Dance, n——, dance!” You would think my parents would be hateful and mean people holding grudges after everything they went through. But even after all of those horrible experiences, I still managed to grow up in a home where I did not know that there was a difference in skin color.
I am grateful for that.
It wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school that I found out I was considered “different.” I went to a Christian high school which was predominately white. It wasn’t until some of my friends had mentioned to me that I was the only “black” girl in the school.
To be continued… (Sorry!)