Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A World Our Graduates Face

It's that time of the year. Our little corner of the world is a microcosm of what is happening all over. It's graduation time. Young college and graduate students that we have known and loved began to graduate about two weeks ago. High School seniors start picking up their diplomas in about another two weeks. It is a time of rejoicing and pride with and toward those beautiful young lives.

Each in their own way will soon start moving on another level in this big world. They face a difficult time, perhaps even harder than their parents faced, at least economically and in the process of job-searching. But they are also facing a world divided, angry, and seared with idiocy.

Two cases in point: This Saturday afternoon, a Ku Klux Klan rally will be held in the northern end of our county in a small community named Harmony, NC (Is that name ironic or what?). I once saw a klansman standing on a street corner in Nashville, TN,. That was in the late 60's. But today? In Harmony, NC?? In the 21st century??? Yet that's a part of the world our graduates will face.

And then there is Pastor Charles Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC, who is presently experiencing his fifteen minutes of shame. Pastor Worley personifies homophobic. In his Mother's Day sermon, he gave his answer to the issue of all the "queers and homosexuals." Incarcerate them behind an electric fence, drop food to them, wait......and soon they will die off. There is so much to unpack in his statements that is repugnant that I won't even try. However, my 14 year old granddaughter said that such wishful thinking on the pastor's part is "borderline holocaust." I think she is on to something. Don't kill them as, according to some interpreters, the good book says. Just corral them like cattle until they all die.

Pastor Worley is an embarrassment to the Jesus way. He is a pathetic bully. And he represents something of what our graduates will have to face.

But I have confidence in these young people, at least the ones I know. I think someday they are going to make a lot of their elders squirm when they ask, almost in unison, "what in the world were you thinking?" And I believe that they are, in spirit, going to emulate one of the loveliest scenes I have ever witnessed.

Yesterday I sat in a medical office waiting room. I glanced up for a second as an older African-American woman shuffled her way toward the receptionist. She was stooped, her hair was white, her face reflecting a sense of discomfort. I looked away for just a moment and then returned to the woman only to see someone else alongside her. The second person, also a woman, was elderly, but tall, well-dressed, sophisticated, and carried herself with an air of confidence. And she was white. Then I realized that she was accompanying the first woman, slightly touching her elbow, guiding her toward the window where she would be greeted. As the receptionist spoke with the "patient", the second woman stepped back so as to allow some privacy. When that conversation was finished, she took her friend by the elbow and began to guide her toward an area of the building where lab work was done.

A few years ago, those roles would have been reversed. A black woman, regardless of how she might have felt, would have posssibly accompanied a white woman who needed some care. But things have changed....even though some in Harmony, NC and elsewhere don't understand such change. And that change will continue, like ripples in a pond.

Graduates, blessings on you. Be change-agents. And be compassionate.

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