The is no one big, magic solution to the complex issues facing urban communities today. But there are five hundred or five thousand little solutions that can add up.-Bob Muzikowski
It’s been 26 years now since we met. I really don’t remember the day. I will assume it was the first day of kindergarten. Mrs Whitey’s class. I loved her. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. You on the other hand had a thing for one of the Amandas. But the fact remains that somewhere along the way we became friends. Close friends.
On my street there were other boys, but we were never close. They picked on me. You never did. I remember so many odd facts now. The fact that around your yard you always had kittens. Oh, how I loved the kittens. It was like a kid’s wonderland. “The Land of the Kittens.” I remember other things too…like your one-eyed sister who was always threating to show me the empty socket. I was very afraid. I also remember the garage. Trash. As far as I could see there was trash. I remember the first time I saw a cockroach. It was on your plate. You just pushed it aside. I remember lots of brothers and sisters too. Brothers and sisters with fun names that working class white kids didn’t have. The Philanda’s and the Vaylas and the Darnells. What fun names. Some place, though I don’t remember now, there was a little baby named Darryle. But that is for another time.
Our worlds were certainly different. Some parents I am sure would have never let me play at your house. But that is not my parents. My dad is a lifetime underdog with a tender heart. And my mom had lived the white version of your life. Poverty, squalor and brokenness. A life that involved no dad, no food, and the only toilet a pot they carried to the back yard. Thank you Jesus for my mom and dad. Some parents would have been repulsed. Some parents would not have been able to deal with the dirtiness, the smells and the bold, and utterly unbelievable lies that were your trademark. My mom and dad, though, never drove you away. Instead they drew you in. Oh how wonderful a thing.
I am a pastor now Mo, you know this, I have performed the weddings of most of your family. Even so, we probably have only seen each other a handful of times since High School. And by middle school we had already taken different routes. I know your life now Mo, I know you have struggled with drugs and every other kind of urban malady, so I am not sure how much my life impacted you, but Mo I want you to know that who I am today was made those 26 years ago. You impacted me. Mo you trained a pastor, and you did it well.
You impacted me Mo because you were a faithful friend. A faithful friend with much darker skin. God used you to introduce me to race. You impacted me Mo, because you were a content friend. A content friend who had so little. God used you to introduce me to class. You impacted me because you were a happy friend. A happy friend who lived amongst sorrow. Mo, I saw these things and I grew. I grew and became angry with a life changing righteous anger. Mo, had I never known you, I might have never have known that there were people who were hated for the hue of their skin. If I had never known you Mo, I may never have seen what brokenness looked like and I never would have been broken. Mo, to be broken for you was the greatest gift you ever gave me.
I still remember the day Mo. It weakens my knees still. If I think too long my breath will become short and my heart still breaks.
It was Kindergarten. It was parent’s day. My mom, of course, was there. So was every other parent. Except yours. None of the others parents were shocked. I think that they would have been more shocked if your mom had showed up. But the thing that broke me Mo was the way that your faith never wavered. Your belief that she would arrive any minute. The way you stared at the door. And finally Mo the moment that you knew and tears streamed.
It wasn’t fair Mo. People should not have called you names for the color of you skin. People should not have gossiped and turned up their noses at a little boy because his mamma did not wash him. It wasn’t fair Mo. None of it. It was an injustice. Mo, I don’t know if I ever would have known. Until the day I saw an injustice that even a kindergartener could understand: A mom who does not love enough to be there for her child. It wasn’t fair, Mo. But that was the day. The day that God put in me a godly sorrow. The day that God introduced me to a holy brokenness. That day Mo, as your tears fell, I became me.