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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

my afternoon with the repair man

This post is going to be raw/real. I hope it doesn't offend anyone. This is my perception, which doesn't mean it is universal reality, it is only reality to me. I am labeling people, with the intent to only paint a clear picture of the experience.

I have always lived in the south. I grew up in a white neighborhood. In my elementary classes there were maybe 2 or 3 black kids, and those kids were typically poor and lived in government housing. Growing up and watching the news, 99% of the faces they posted of criminals were black men.

In 2nd grade there was a boy named Calvin in my class. We would always joke around and I liked to feel the top of his head. He was black and I had never felt hair like that. We'd both laugh about it but the teacher discouraged us and inserted a note in my report card referring to the inappropriate behavior. I remember thinking what did I do wrong? I honestly don't remember thinking anything especially negative towards black people. Well I take that back, in my mind I probably thought the people I came encounter with were poor, but I don't recall any other negatives feelings. That changed one day in 6th grade when two 5th grade black girls accused me of putting my hand in their face. Honestly I had never spoken to them a day in my life. They would curse me in the hall, yell out stupid threats and I became scared. I was walking to a friend's house after school one day and they tried to jump me. (I put this story in my elementary days post) Freddy, a tall sweet black kid that had a crush on me, intervened and I never had trouble from them again. The high school years that followed, my experience with black girls left a very negative impression on me. They would bump into me in the hall and yell out "bitch move out of my way!" One day I was waiting to use the pay phone during lunch. I was next in line and a black girl had been talking twice as along as the time limit. I asked her to please get off. She verbally bashed me. ANYWAYS. The point is my perception became my reality and at the heart, it wasn't good. I couldn't understand their culture, it made me feel uncomfortable, so I labeled it as bad.

I never thought I would come back and live in the same neighborhood as I grew up. My kids would go to my elementary school if we didn't homeschool. Now, they would be in the minority as one of maybe 3 white kids per class. Our county has changed to where whites are very much the minority. Coming back to my home town, I have been asking God to deal with me about my racism. I have asked him to send me a black person that I can be open with to talk to and gain understanding of their perception. Who knew His answer would be through the refrigerator repair man.

Early yesterday morning I call the first appliance repair service listed in the yellow pages. Tim calls me back. He tells me he'll be there between 10 and 12. Noon comes, still no Tim. I begin thinking, this is rude. Just call and tell me you are running late. 12:30, Tim calls, he'll be here soon. Okay, so the door bell rings. Note: I am being completely honest, these were my thoughts. Pretty shameful okay!
1. I know he is black from talking with him on the phone.
2. He doesn't make eye contact and is not very polite. It makes me nervous.
3. He is missing a few teeth in the front and has a gold cap on another. I think he must be poor and not very smart.
4. He smells like smoke. Ugh, why do all repair men smoke!
5. He begins to diagnose the problem and I begin to fear he is going to take me for a ride.

I was SO SO wrong! For the next four and a half hours we talked openly and candidly about religion and racial issues. Tim was one the smartest self educated men I have ever met. The guy knew so much about history, world religion and the scriptures. He grew up in the church and then rebelled once out of his dad's farming house (he was #8 out of 13 kids!) He read the Koran and became Muslim for 10 years. He was a drug user and did not have any respect for women. God used a woman from his past that he had not seen in 17 years to transform him and break free from the bondage he was in. He now is a group leader at a Southern Baptist clinic in the heart of the city that ministers to troubled teens and drug addicts. He was able to share with me and I with him our first experiences with people of the opposite race and the impact it had on our lives. We talked about religious denomination issues, he grew up Church of Christ and disliked Southern Baptist, yet he now works with them. He explained to me why Islam is so appealing to black men. We even felt comfortable to joke about the differences of whites and blacks. At one point he said, "You know, black people discipline their kids different from whites" I looked at him and we both just started to laugh and agree, so we talked about that for a while. We talked and talked. He talked about his anger towards white people and how it took reading the prayers of a "negro slave for her white master" to motivate him to change. I explained my fears of the black race and how it all began with the media and the girls from my elementary days. I could go on and on. It was amazing how real we were able to be.

I am changed as a result of spending time with Tim. For a few brief hours we both were able to be vulnerable and view race from another color's eyes. He thanked me for expressing my fears of black people and I thanked him for helping me gain understanding of their heritage. Here in the deep south, blacks and whites have a long way to go to overcome all the crap that has happened in past. People can't bridge that gap, only the redeeming love of Christ can. I am so grateful to have gained this experience. I pray it will impact me forever.

21 Comments:

Blogger Laurel Wreath said...

Oh your heart and tenderness really hit me and your vulnerablity. I think the Lord did bring him to you. I really am at a loss of word, this story is so awesome. Thank you for sharing it.

11:18 AM

 
Blogger Jennifer said...

Laurel Wreath linked me over here. I am glad I came. Thanks for your honesty. God answered your prayer! My grandmother (who is 86 and raised in the South) has a neighbor who is black (and another who is openly gay, but that's another story), and I am happy that she is able to share a cup of coffee with either of them, despite years of inborn racism. It's all about seeing a person, and not a color or a label, and I'm glad you were able to do that.

12:58 PM

 
Anonymous Trixi said...

I also linked over here. Your story is so compelling. I live in the heart of the South as well (Mississippi) and always have. I know exactly where you are coming from. I am glad you had this opportunity. Thank you for sharing.
Blessings,
Trixi

1:41 PM

 
Blogger Di-dan said...

I got your note about my earlier comment and I don't blame you! As soon as I hit 'post,' I was like "Uh-oh" and knew what I had done. I apologize. As I said on my earlier comment though, I am glad you were able to have this opportunity and get some questions answered. We could all probably benefit from such an experience. As I also said earlier, it just goes to show that we should never 'judge a book by its cover' because we certainly never know how God may choose to answer a prayer. This was a good, thought-provoking blog...thanks!

2:12 PM

 
Blogger on the Rock said...

You experienced a wonderful moment in time! Thank you for sharing it.

2:54 PM

 
Blogger keri said...

very cool. i think we do this with lots of other races as well...and even other white people that may not look "normal" to us...we so easily judge and REALLY have no idea who these people are inside. great lesson to learn. thanks for your honesty.

3:26 PM

 
Blogger Jessica said...

I was a little scared by the title, I was expecting a repair man horror story, but what a beautiful surprise. Thanks for being real and letting us into your head!

3:27 PM

 
Blogger Wendy said...

That is awesome that God used this situation for good for both of you! I love how He works things out. Thanks for sharing!

5:02 PM

 
Blogger Cantini #3 said...

Wow! What an experience. I think probably most of us share your same feelings about the opposite race. You are just honest about sharing it. I've got someone in my life that talk candidly about race. God brought him into my life too and it has changed me!Totally awesome that God brought him into your house and that he was willing to share as well.

5:29 PM

 
Blogger Glass Half Full said...

I can admit being in that situation. I want to kick myself with these stereotypes I have -- so wrong!!! What if Jesus had that initial attitude??? Your experience is a true life lesson!!

7:48 PM

 
Blogger JenMom said...

Awesome Post, A. I was blessed to work on a team with incredible, diverse people several years ago and we had such open, honest conversations about race & stereotypes. I valued those insights so much!
Now for my superficial wise crack....no wonder he was late if he's having these life changing conversations all over town...just think how the persn at the house after YOU must have felt! :-)

8:05 PM

 
Anonymous johnvano said...

There is but one race--the human race. Everything else is just the package.

9:08 PM

 
Blogger Just T said...

What a moving experience you had. I am glad you got to have this and truly embrace it. In my school days, we mostly had whites, our blacks (Aboriginals) and Greeks/Italians. Now with my children in school, there are a vast number of races and creeds. Her class alone has white Australians, Asians, Aboriginals and Islanders (Jamaica, Philipines & Papua New Guinea I think). For this I am blessed that hopefully my children will grow to be tolerant of everyone and realise it's a person's actions which deem them good or bad, not a person's colour or heritage. Thank you so much for your honesty !!!

2:18 AM

 
Blogger MugwumpMom said...

Wow. Laurel Wreath sent me over and I'm glad she did. This was a very moving post. Being Canadian we don't have "black/white" race issues here, but there are alot of issues of other races and cultures like Asian and East Indian, so it is a universal lesson for all of us. Thanks so much for sharing so honestly and candidly. Your courage is very admirable.

2:42 AM

 
Blogger Grafted Branch said...

I, too came here through Laurel Wreath. I'm so glad you wrote about this and I spent the time to read it -- every word, no skimming!

It goes to show that everyone does have a story and a purpose and you simply can't judge a book by its cover (though we all continue to do that unless we're very mindful).

I would like to meet Tim. Someday, on the other side of my last breath, I guess.

1:56 PM

 
Blogger Perri said...

Good for you! I'm glad that you were not only changed by this encounter but that you took the time to let the rest of us know about it.

3:19 PM

 
Anonymous Heather Sanders said...

I live in Huntsville, Texas, and although I wouldn't say that whites are the minority, we certainly aren't the majority - there's a nice mix.

I see a lot of racism in this town on both sides and although I didn't have the experience that you had - nor the feelings - I have been exposed to it regularly as an adult.

I appreciate your honesty and I would have loved to have heard the information shared between the two of you; priceless. I bet there was a lot I could learn. Thank you for this post.

11:50 PM

 
Anonymous whittakerwoman said...

I love our relationship! I look forward to watching us grow together on this topic. I love our open hearts and know that God has us together for a reason. I love ya. H

12:02 AM

 
Blogger Kim said...

I am so glad that I read your post. I worked at a KFC for two years and I was the minority. It did open my eyes to alot of racism that we can have toward each other. I am glad the Lord helped you!

5:02 PM

 
Blogger BooMama said...

Awesome.

I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall as you and Tim talked...isn't God good?

9:25 PM

 
Blogger Lori said...

Wonderful post!

9:27 AM

 

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