Unless You Become As A Little Child
He was tall and thin with a warm friendly smile. I didn’t know much about him but remember feeling sad as his family lived in another country. Archie, as this was his name, was black. Growing up in northern British Columbia, Canada seldom would you see a black man. Archie was my first encounter. I was a child. He didn’t look like me, or anyone I knew, and I found that fascinating. Archie had a kind heart. I was talkative, tall, gangly, and often shunned by my peers and many adults. Archie liked children and treated me like I was his friend, and I think I was.
The ladies from church made sure he had someplace to go for Sabbath dinner. One particular Sabbath Archie was invited to our house. He had spent the whole afternoon with us and was also invited to stay for supper. I remember where he was sitting when it happened. I politely said “Please pass the nigger toes”. I didn’t know what I said wrong! My parents’ faces went several shades of red. My friend looked a little shocked and then laughed. You may think I was raised in a racist house. I wasn’t. My parents took the opportunity to teach a lesson. Right then and there, while still sitting at the table, we discussed that “nigger” was an unkind name for a black person. Never again did we ever call Brazil nuts that.
I was saddened to discover this woven unsuspectingly into our culture. My friends and I took a stand and substituted tigger for nigger in childhood rhymes. As I got older I realized that adults from my grandparents era used terms that if they really had stopped and thought about it, would never have been used. For example who hasn’t heard that generation use the slang “cotton pick’n”??? Because of where I grew up, that was the extent of my experience with black racism, but that doesn’t mean racism didn’t exist. I grew up side by side with First Nation children (the proper term in Canada for what American’s would call Indigenous). To me there was no difference. I was horrified when I learned as an adult that children up until the generation before me had been removed from their homes and put in schools to be taught to be “white” children. Their parents weren’t allowed in restaurants and didn’t gain the right to vote until 1960!
Yesterday the words of Jesus came to mind. “… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 KJV In the past I’ve never thought of this verse in the context of racism by why not? I have yet to see a racist toddler. When my sister was still in diapers and just learning to talk she walked up to a black man, put out her arms to be picked up and said “Daddy”. If you know my father you would know the humor in her actions. Without a tan my dad would glow in the dark! No, my sister wasn’t mistaken by him from looks, what she was being was an accepting child. No one had told her that for some reason society thought differently of him simply because of the color of his skin.
Jesus was addressing His disciples when He told them they must be as little children. These were men who were spiritual leaders, and Jesus was talking about the need to be converted? Yes! So what if I call myself a Christian and I find in my heart I have racist feelings? Jesus gave the answer. I must be converted. I must ask Him to change my heart. The change begins with Him in me.
“…He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” Act 17:25
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28
PS The painting is of my grandson in Uganda, his mother calls us Mom and Dad. We sponsored his mother through high school and have kept in contact with her for nearly 14 years.