The Orange Leader
Thirty years ago on August 23, 1983 a busload of seminary students headed for Washington D.C. I had just moved to Atlanta to attend Candler School of Theology on the Emory University campus. I left Houston amid the turmoil and destruction of hurricane Alicia. I had only been in class for a week and a half when this opportunity presented itself. I chose not to go because in my mind it wasn't my war. Or so I thought. I didn't know that by moving to Atlanta, Georgia I would be moving back to the Civil War. People there, as warm and friendly as they were, were still in upheaval. This bus trip to Washington D.C. was organized to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. One of my best friends on campus was from Leesburg, Alabama. His father was a doctor and owned a hospital. During the civil rights strife his dad would allow black patients into the white hospital. He and his dad went on marches and had their lives threatened and the clan had burned crosses in their front yard. Don Irwin was an amazing man with nail biting stories. I could say it was not my war because I had my own battles. I grew up with a vision problem; I couldn't see and my eyes crossed badly. So if you can imagine a shy boy with the vision of a mole and whose eyes crossed, that was me. An eye doctor told my parents when I was just eight that he could operate on my eyes and straighten them but it really didn't matter because I was a boy. I had people stop me while riding my bicycle in my neighborhood and tell me not to ride my bike on their street or sidewalk. Another boy broke the headlight out of my new J.C. Higgins bicycle because I looked different and he didn't like my looks. Because I attended a Special Education Class for Vision I was lumped in with all sorts of folks with challenges from mental to hearing which just added to the ridicule. Children can be cruel. Bullying is not new. If anything I knew what the black folks were going through. They couldn't change the color of their skin anymore than I could change the direction of my eyes. We were kindred spirits. I have a dream, that one day we Christians will live the words and life of Jesus whose actions expressed the wonder of God's love for all his children.