Our son and daughter are the only children of color on their school bus. We were dismayed to learn that another family's children were treating our kids badly. After they spat in our daughter's face and told her she had no right to be riding with them, we realized we were at a crisis point.
Even though it has been 50 years since the US Supreme Court's landmark decision (Brown v. Board of Education) that abolished segregation in American public schools, we still have a long way to go. Legislation, after all, doesn't touch the human heart.
For several years, America has celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in January and Black History Month in February. Programs in schools and cultural centers highlight the enormous contributions that persons of African descent have made to American society, but prejudice and racial hatred still go on, and some hate groups are growing.
For many years I have admired the courageous stand that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, took in combating racism. In a poem from 1901 titled "The New Century," she wrote:
'Tis writ on earth, on leaf and flower:
Love hath one race, one realm, one power.
Dear God! how great, how good Thou art
To heal humanity's sore heart....
("Poems," page 22)
Her attitude on race predated, by almost a century, what sociologists and anthropologists are now stating, that race as an objective fact does not exist. She never barred nonwhites from joining her church, either. And she foresaw the great acceptance Africans (and by extension African-Americans) would have for her teachings, when she wrote in 1897: "From the interior of Africa to the utmost parts of the earth, the sick and the heavenly homesick or hungry hearts are calling on me for help, and I am helping them" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 147).
I have learned that the brotherhood of man is inescapable. God the Father-Mother includes all humanity in His-Her family. All of us are inherently bound together in love. It is not possible for racial prejudice to exist when one becomes conscious of the reality of this idea. This heals "humanity's sore heart."
We informed the authorities what was happening on the school bus. We also tried to pray, but I realized I wasn't getting anywhere as long as I wanted to go over and punch the other kids' father in the nose! I had to get back to the idea of God and His perfect idea, man. I had to see this family, not just mine, as included in God's love. My animosity faded. I prayed to know more clearly that God's infinitude was real, that harmony wasn't some unattainable ideal, and that we were all moving in God's universe.
That afternoon, the other father brought his children over to our house. They apologized. Our daughter hugged the other little girl and said, "It's OK, you're really my sister." That was the end of the problem. The other girl asked our daughter to sit with her on the bus, and their rides back and forth now seem dominated by happy chatter. The problem was just gone.
No problem is too great for God, and the threat of growing hate groups, uncivil conversations, and unspoken animosity, can be dissolved through prayer.
St. Paul, citizen of the multiethnic Roman Empire, saw this when he so eloquently declared in Athens that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). We can celebrate our cultural and social diversity as strength when we truly see the spirituality of our brotherhood and sisterhood.
Jesus' prayer for all his brethren:
Father, that they may be one,
Echoes down through all the ages,
Nor prayed he for these alone
But for all, that through all time
God's will be done.
Christian Science Hymnal, No. 157