Watching a baseball game recently that was a tribute to the contributions of players from the Negro Leagues of the past, I was transported back to 1968 when I moved to Greensboro, N.C., to start a new job. It was three days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There was tension in town, a feeling of fear and instability in the wake of the tragic shooting. Greensboro had been a site where some of the “sit-ins,” a series of nonviolent protests against racial segregation, had taken place.
My family and I soon settled in Pleasant Garden, a small town south of Greensboro. At the end of the summer we were trying to get our son registered in a preschool program. The local school was filled, but there was an opening we took at the Rena Bullock School, a short distance away.
One Tuesday night a few weeks into the school year we set out for a Parent-Teacher Association meeting. There was a hush as we entered the large auditorium, undoubtedly brought on by the appearance of my wife and me at the door. Rena Bullock School was an all-black school, our son was the only white student, and we were the only white couple in the building.
For the first time I began to understand how many black citizens and members of other minorities may feel when they walk into a room filled with people of another race. My wife and I had known that the school was all black but hadn’t calculated the stir our presence would cause.
That single moment changed me forever, and I will always be grateful for it, even though it was a shock at the time.
After the group’s initial reaction and when the meeting was over, we were warmly welcomed. Loving glances, warm handshakes, and laughter topped off our visit as we met with the teachers, the school staff, and other parents. We were cordially accepted as fellow parents and friends.
The people were upholding the standard of the golden rule, but had I myself always been so diligent? How many times had I been cold or insensitive, not appreciating how others felt in similar circumstances?
That initial feeling I had has stayed with me to this day and has resulted in my ongoing attempts to look past what my eyes see on the surface and to look deeper into reality, to see beyond prejudices, to go further than the worldly view that is constantly put before our eyes. Talk about a tough lifetime assignment!
I became aware of instances in which a deeper, kinder look might bring out a better understanding, more compassion, more affinity with my fellow man. I began to ask myself, Am I content to see and experience only the outward sense of things – perhaps seeing and then forgetting the struggles so many people face every day? Can I pray for a clearer view of creation, one so perfectly proved by the master Christian, Christ Jesus?
In reading and studying the lessons that the Bible reveals, I saw that a more spiritual view of life brings new insights, new views, and healing. Is it really possible for us to emulate the strength and healing presence that Jesus and his disciples demonstrated as they made their way through the cities and villages, uplifting and healing the lives of the people they encountered?
Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” points out how Jesus used seeing instead of looking, when she wrote: “Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause” (p. 313).
I began to understand the need to see spiritually instead of just looking materially, seeing God’s image and likeness in each individual, seeing past the surface to find the real person reflecting the underlying love, intelligence, hope, patience, trust, faith – spiritual qualities – that are inherent in each of us. This kind of seeing can be done despite the appearance of want and woe, hopelessness, suffering, blindness, pain, fear, lameness, even death. Seeing in this way is how Jesus healed.
Many examples in the Bible illustrate this power of seeing spiritually. One that continues to inspire me is a scene in which a crowd of thousands had gathered to hear Jesus speak (see Matthew 14:17). The only food available was five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Jesus, seeing the need to feed the group materially as well as spiritually, fed and satisfied the crowd – with fish and bread left over. Looking at the meager supply of food, he must have seen that God meets everyone’s needs regardless of circumstances.
Our next step? Why not emulate those folks at the Rena Bullock School years ago? Express simple love and acceptance. We can view the entire world in a spirit of love, embracing everyone we meet with kindness, providing bushels of loving smiles, warm handshakes, and laughter. And we can cherish God’s love for each of His sons and daughters, remembering, “[W]hatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
That’s a golden start.
Adapted from the author’s blog.