When I was 3 going on 4 years old, my grandmother taught at Tuesday School. This was an after school program that her church sponsored for school-aged kids in Washington D.C. I loved going with her and seeing the big kids who got to go to that magical place called school. I loved their backpacks, their school supplies, their stories, the sound of the bus that dropped them at the church, the smell of their school clothes. All of this seemed so foreign but I knew that school was the place for me. I wanted so much to be like these kids and go to school. So, I set about doing what they did so I could go too. I had supplies and played school all the time at home. My poor brother suffered horribly through my home classroom and I think I did the poor guy in. He probably looked at me and said, “Please make sure I’m not like her so I don’t have to go.” I’m sorry, Jeff. I ruined it for you. But I had my role models and I was on a mission.
We had an aluminum storm door on the front of our house. The bottom part was solid and had the mandatory barn-door X stamped into the metal. The top held a screen in the summer and some filmy window in the winter. When the main door was open, the light would shine through the top of the storm door and make a warm, perfect square on the carpet at the bottom of the stairs. It was there I set about making sure I could go to school. I laid my little body right down there on that carpet for as long as a kid could keep still. My mother would walk by and ask me what I was doing. “Getting ready to go to school,” was my standard answer. My brother was glad to have me out of the classroom and out of commission so he didn’t say a word. One night, before bed, I climbed up on the side of the tub, got one knee up on the sink, grabbed the medicine cabinet, and pulled myself fully up to the mirror. What I saw was heartbreaking. I still looked exactly the same. I carefully jumped down, avoiding a collision with the toilet, and went to my parents in tears. Through my little sobs, I told them I just wanted to go to school. They responded by saying that soon I would be on my way. I pointed out that I had been laying in the sun every day and my skin wasn’t getting any browner. They were puzzled so I explained about the kids at Tuesday School and the fact that only kids with brown skin got to go to real school. I had tried so hard to make my skin brown. It just hadn’t worked. I’m sure they laughed at me. They may have taken turns talking to me while the other one giggled or maybe they waited until I had gone to bed but we had a talk about the fact that all kids could go to school. My mother assured me that it didn’t matter what color anyone’s skin was, everyone could go to school. That was an earth-shattering revelation to my little brain and I believe I was so happy I skipped right upstairs and started picking out something to wear for whenever I got to head off to my first day of school.
While I innocently thought that my appearance was the key to getting something I really wanted, I was to grow up in a world where that assumption was reinforced at every turn. I had many more times during my life where I felt inferior because of things I couldn’t change. I have felt like I was not good enough on many occasions.
We are told, by the media, that we need to be thinner, have silkier hair, wear this brand of clothing, drink a certain soda, drive that car, graduate from this college, all in the name of having what we want. Many chase those dreams to the exclusion of their faith, their friends, their families, and their own happiness. Instead of chasing after the things of this world, instead of feeling like we aren’t good enough, we should look to our Father who tells us that we are His. No matter what color our skin, no matter what language we speak, no matter where we live, we are the children of the most high God. He loves us and calls us redeemed. I don’t have to look like you or think like you but you also don’t have to look like me or think like me. We just have to love what makes us different and continue walking each other Home.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.