I woke up this morning to news of the racial unrest in Milwaukee being expressed during the night by protesters burning buildings.
My mind took me back to the race riots of 1967. How long ago was that? Is it possible that it was 50 years ago? Yes, nearly.
I remember the phone call I got from a black co-worker at 3 AM as though it happened yesterday, When I answered, she repeated my name several times and then frantically told me there was a “riot” in her house. A combination of her accent and my sleepiness caused me to hear the word “rat” instead of “riot”.
Trying to wake up, I told this friend we would have to get a trap.
No, No she again tried to explain. There was a race riot on her street. An armed policeman entered her house and her husband shot him. Their house was on fire, her husband was in custody and her grand babies were breathing smoke.
I don’t remember how the next steps were taken, but somehow I got the babies. I do remember carrying them in a laundry basket covered with a sheet because we lived next door to a white policeman.
And at some point in this crazy series of episodes, this friend was in my home, kneeling by my bed and sobbing as she poured out her heart to “my” Jesus.
The impact of this image was intense, magnified by my background of no relationship with anyone who looked different than me.
I grew up in a European immigrant farming community. The only people I ever saw that were not “like” us were American Indians. This contact was not personal but rather observing the reservations and tribal events from time to time.
It was not until I was studying to be a nurse in Milwaukee that I worked with African Americans and cared for them as patients in the hospital.
I remember one patient asking me to put Vaseline in her hair. I told her I didn’t think that was a good idea. She assured me that it was.
I quickly became friends with my coworkers. We enjoyed each other’s company, ate in each other’s homes and shared our stories.
Yet, they were black and I was white.
Until, the friend who I introduced at the beginning of this post was kneeling by my bed, sobbing and pouring out her heart to “my” Jesus.
As I saw her there, my heart leapt with the recognition that we were more same than different. She was not praying to “my” Jesus, she was praying to “our” Jesus.
Yes, the red of His blood has washed away the black and white of our skin. She was weeping for what breaks “our” God’s heart.
Today, now 50 years later, the blood has not lost its power!
Lord, may I not have lost my passion!
Red first, then black and white!