My Summer Work During College
During my first two summers back home from the University of Texas in my racially divided home town, I worked as part of a five man Lake Tyler crew taking care of developed properties. We did everything from yard work to housework, but most of the work was hot and tiring outdoor work. I was the only white guy. Being the minority was a novelty for a white boy raised in the 1960s in East Texas.
My main boss, two permanent employees, and another summer worker were all black. I was a bit afraid in this completely new experience. However, my apprehension soon disappeared. These initial strangers across what I experienced growing up as a deep cultural divide embraced me as a brother and treated me as an equal.
All summer long, we worked together, protected each other in some occasionally dangerous work, and always ate lunch together at a picnic table under some trees by Lake Tyler. This transformative experience taught me better than words that we are all equally dignified and human. Is there any better instruction than our own personal experience and observation? What will we make of it and do about it? A few years after my rich work experience, James (the “boss man” as my co-workers called him) honored me by attending our wedding. He greeted me with a treasured bear hug I will never forget
A Model Organization — Church Women United
A few years ago, Church Women United (“CWU”) asked me to speak to their group about social justice after reading my faith-related article in the Austin paper. I will never forget the positive chills when I walked up to the pulpit in a sanctuary to offer my comments on God’s supreme priority of seeking justice as a way of loving others. The large female audience was truly half black and half white — no minorities (other than me as the sole male), only uniformity.
CWU, formed in the 1940s to bring black and white Christian women with different views and backgrounds together, has a wonderful motto: “Agreed to Differ, Resolved to Love, United to Serve.” If I might paraphrase: Serving others in need as a common expression of love breaks down walls and conquers differences. Although I spoke from the pulpit that day, the audience taught me. Their mission that day was collecting blankets for the poor and homeless during winter months. As I learned many years before but now in a more profound way, working together in practical acts of kindness and caring is an antidote to sharp and long-standing divisiveness. Simply working together to help others in need (aka love) knocks down fences of all kinds, including racial and theological barriers.