Last evening as it was getting dark, my husband and I were walking back from taking our dog for his evening stroll to the apartment where we've been living the last few months. This neighborhood is predominantly black and lower income. There was a new truck, an ice cream truck parked in the church parking lot we passed. As we returned an SUV had pulled up next to it, and a man was inside the ice cream truck moving around. We glanced over curiously, and the man immediately came out of the ice cream truck and emphatically said, "That's my truck!" We were a bit taken aback, but smiled and said, "That's cool, we just hadn't seen it here before." He launched into a lengthy explanation of how he usually parks it here at the church in the summer for the kids, but he was helping the church take down their old air conditioners from the roof, so he hadn't gotten to it until now. We smiled and agreed it was good for the kids not to have to walk far on the busy roads to get an ice cream, and mentioned that we'd visited the church a couple of weeks previously. He invited us to make sure we go meet the bishop and his wife at the church.
As we walked away, I realized that his primary response was indicative of just how incredibly sensitive and defensive blacks feel daily simply for having different skin color than the majority. We, too, have experienced gatherings where we were subjected to intensified criticism, scrutiny and judgment regarding the different choices we make every day; perhaps those experiences helped us feel more keenly his sense that all white folk default to suspicion of blacks.
Racism isn't an old problem (Scot posted a blog at Jesus Creed today from recent history); it's an ongoing, perennially human problem given the reactions we experience here. It seems one reason we have been so warmly received in this neighborhood may be simply because we respond with the love of Christ to those whom we meet, not with default suspicion or self-protectiveness. We've prayed with them, cried with them, spoken of our trials together, and worshiped with them. I needed to be reminded how precious the gift of welcome and acceptance is to all of us. They don't want to lose touch with us, even though we're moving closer to my husband's office this weekend. We feel very humbled by their caring.
For those folks with pick-up trucks, you know how often you get hit for help moving furniture. Imagine the sense of blessing we felt when one of our older neighbors offered to help us move furniture with his pick-up truck this weekend. His offer was completely spontaneous & unsolicited.