Crystal Wadsworth of Birmingham, Ala., made headlines recently as the first white graduate of A.H. Parker High School (see "Unlikely Pioneer: Parker High's first white graduate" The Christian Science Monitor, May 24).
What caught my attention to her story was that she didn't see herself as doing anything special. She didn't see herself as a white person in a black school. Four years ago when she started at Parker, she simply wanted to go to high school where her friends were going. As a mother of three who all wanted to do exactly that, it sounds perfectly normal to me.
Crystal learned from her high school experience that "if you set your mind to it and just be yourself, you can get along with anybody." The fact that this is significant and worthy of news shows me that we still have a way to go on the path of true desegregation, and that students are leading the way.
When my children were still in school, we moved from a large city to a small town in the country. They came home from school the first day and asked, "Where are all the African-American kids? Where are all the Asian kids? And what about the Middle Eastern kids?" They not only noticed the difference but missed the diversity. This gave rise to many opportunities to discuss why we missed the diversity and how we could appreciate other cultures while in our new community.
High school graduation marks the point at which students go out into the larger world, whether it be to college or into a career. It's important, then, for them to have the understanding that while people have diverse backgrounds, we all have basic similarities and, in fact, a common heritage as children of the one God. The Bible puts it this way. "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" and goes on to ask, "Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" (Mal. 2:10).
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, or the laws of God as they apply to humanity, asserted, "It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 467).
Mind, Life, Truth, and Love are all names for God that help us understand the divine nature better – and therefore the true nature of men and women as made in His image and likeness.
I often turned to the Bible and Science and Health for inspiration when it came to finding answers to my children's questions and for insight into how to teach them to become citizens of the world. My children learned for themselves that their friends were not different from themselves and that "dealing treacherously" with them by being mean or unkind only caused hurt feelings and pain, and didn't solve any problems. And it could escalate into a problem of huge proportions.
Mrs. Eddy also wrote, "God has countless ideas, and they all have one Principle and parentage" (Science and Health, p. 517). This helped my children understand that every person on the planet is one of God's children and needs to be considered as a brother or sister, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.
The significance of learning to get along with others of different cultural backgrounds can't be underestimated. Crystal Wadsworth not only has been granted an academic degree for completing high school, but she has advanced to a new level of understanding the true nature of humanity. She has learned that how she perceives and interacts with people is of paramount importance to success in other areas. To have graduated with that skill and knowledge is an accomplishment indeed.