Taking steps to reverse generational sins isn’t always easy.
Sometimes, though, it is.
I was probably four years old when we lived in a large apartment complex in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My sister, Joanne, reminded me that we lived off N. Teutonia Avenue, near Brown Deer. Four apartment buildings made up a quad (with a green play area in the middle). The place was swarming with children. Most were white. Some were black. I only remember two. One blonde friend lived in our building and I have a couple pictures to remind me of his birthday party. My other friend was a black girl that I will never forget. I’ve long since forgotten her name, but something which happened involving her is forever seared in my memory.
We were playing outside one day when my Mom came outside to let me know that my grandmother (my Dad’s Mom) had baked chocolate chip cookies and invited me to come over (they lived a block north). I was probably five years old. You can imagine my excitement. In fact, I was so excited I wanted to share the experience! I wanted my friend to join me. She probably liked chocolate chip cookies, too.
But there was a problem.
She could not accompany me to my grandparents’ home. I was dumbfounded. Why couldn’t my friend tag along for the treats? Then it dawned on me. She was a she. But that didn’t make sense either. Why wouldn’t my grandparents want a friend who is a girl to come with me? And that’s when my Mom had to tell me some rather unexpected news. My friend would not be welcome at Grandpa and Grandma Wehse’s home because she was black.
Welcome to the real world, Timmy!
I don’t know what exactly I said, but I thought, “What does the color of her skin have to do with cookies?”
You know as well as I do the answer to that question. You also know who was in the right and who was in the wrong in that situation. Like I said, I’ll never forget that story. It has served me to keep a check on my own prejudices and it was a catalyst to guide me to pray a particular prayer.
Once we began having children, I prayed that God might lead us to a black family we could befriend and that their kids could play with my kids. My hope was that any remaining granules of prejudice might dissipate as my children judged others by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. God has yet to answer that prayer. But he did something close.
He sent a college student to help my wife bake cookies. Her name is Kat. She is a single woman from Memphis, preparing to graduate this coming December. She has a heart for missions, having been on several short-term missions trips and is excited about what God has in store for her future. Kat has celebrated the past two Christmases with us by helping us decorate our tree. It’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed having her with us.
Am I prejudiced like my father and my grandfather? I am, but not to the same extent. Does this admission shock you? Do you think less of me now? I hope not. Deep down, I believe that we are all a bit prejudiced. Some of us, like me, were given it through the examples we saw and heard growing up. That’s not easily overcome, but we can make strides in the right direction. And–with God’s help–we can even reverse generational sins.
I’m in process.
What about you?
Happy MLK day! And praise God for Kat!