When I was a child we often lived on U.S. Army bases, or in some type of family housing.
Populate a neighborhood or a single building with people from differing states, or with those that were born in other nations, and you get the picture of the communities that I grew up in. Despite our differences, we had so much in common. We trusted and looked after each other.
I became friends with a quiet and well-mannered girl and spent several years at her side. To this day, I cannot use any better word to describe her than kind.
Jackie’s mother deserved the golden award for hospitality. She was beautiful, her warm smile gleamed with love. She always greeted me when I entered her home, and then she and I talked for a few minutes before Jackie and I jaunted off to the bedroom to play with dolls — immersed in our own carefree happy world.
Years later, Jackie’s family announced that they were purchasing a home off-base. I was surprised by my own reaction – a house, really? I was concerned about Jackie attending a new school. She would no longer have her military base friends nearby. I had a feeling her life would no longer be anything like the one she had known.
After a year or so passed, Jackie’s parents invited my family to dinner. I’ll never forget the immaculate home in the quiet pristine neighborhood. It was a warm and inviting place, yet, I felt as if the ground beneath my feet was going to shift. It did, behind closed doors…between two dear friends.
Jackie, who looked as if she had grown up overnight, said, “You know, you and I really aren’t supposed to be friends.”
Did I hear her right?
I was stunned and speechless. She did not break eye contact with me. My heart filled with trepidation. I wanted to erase what I had just heard.
“We are different, don’t you see. I am black. You are white.”
Yes, I knew she was black – we said colored back then, but, did I care? No. So, why was it necessary for Jackie to tell me this?
I could not unscramble my thoughts, not enough to utter a single word.
Jackie then told me the worst news. She was one of the few black children in her new school, and she was suffering from un-acceptance.
My heart filled with pain.
My heart broke over the words, “you and I aren’t supposed to be friends,” and this sweet girl, the one with blood that ran through her veins the same as mine, was being forced into stiffening her backbone because her outer layer, her skin, was not white.
It was a difficult pill to swallow, and then life as we knew it changed.
We lost contact over the years, as did many of us children of military parents, but I’ll never stop loving my friend.
“”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)
Do you have a similar story to tell?