Thursday, January 28, 2010

History Sometimes Rings True

One of my joys currently is spending time with the kids in my church. More specifically, I sometimes teach Bible stories to the kids aged 3-8. A lot of the 7 and 8 year olds are in second grade, as is one of my granddaughters.

Recently, they had a holiday for Martin Luther King Day. Now, this is a small community, primarily Anglo, and I had no idea what the schools taught about this holiday. The kids are all in different classes, so it is not as if they all heard the same teacher. But over the last couple of weeks, they have all talked to me about something they thought was important.

"There used to be a time," they have told me with eyes wide, "when people with brown skins and white skins didn't even go to school together." Another chimed in. "They didn't even drink at the same water fountains." Another said, "If a white person wanted their seat, they had to get up and give it to them and go sit somewhere else."

"But," one said, "Martin Luther King changed that. He brought us together. And it isn't like that anymore."

They were telling me something they learned that was very important to them. They actually valued the man for their holiday from school.

And I smiled and told them, "this was a good thing, wasn't it?" And they nodded, agreeing it was. One of them is very black, from another country. The history was as strange to her as to them.

They are in second grade. And they have learned, through public school, something I think is really important in American history. I never attended a segregated school, nor saw separate water fountains until I was 16. In this part of the country, there were segregated schools and separate water fountains. That I didn't know about it doesn't excuse it. And they will learn some of the deeper lessons of surface prejudice as they grow older.

I was in college in 1963 when King gave his "I have a dream" speech. It moved me then as it moves me still.

To these children, it was ages ago. Probably before my lifetime in their minds, which is why they told me. But it wasn't. No, King didn't end it. But he started a good thing, and I am glad school children today are being taught about why we honor him. We are not finished yet, but he started something good that continues.

Sometimes, it is very good to remember.