Someone I call a "friend" sent me an email recently & asked me if I had ever, in my life, not stood up for someone that was being mistreated, or against something that was just wrong. I appreciated the sentiment of the email & the compliment but the question made me think that maybe a confession of sorts would be in order.
There have been a few times where I didn't stand up as I should but the one that haunts me 'til this very day was about 35 years ago.
There was a another kid that played on the same pee wee football team as me. Wes was taller, faster & could catch anything thrown his way. That's why he was a receiver & a tight end --- a really good athlete.
Wes was just a nice guy. We hung out together before & after practice. He usually rode with us to away games. Wes & I were just good friends.
And Wes happened to be black.
As a 12 year old boy in 1975 in GA, I knew about racism. I knew how things were & how things "were supposed to be" had it not been for those "no-back bone politicians in Washington & those activist judges." (I'm being really nice here & won't say the rest. Use your imagination & recollections.) Still, being a naive kid had its good points & that's why Wes & I were friends. It didn't matter to me --- or to him either, I suppose. We never talked about it; my parents never said anything. So it was all fine.
Then one day we had to play an away game in Cobb County. My mom had driven us to the park & we had gotten there much earlier than the rest of the team. So Wes & I walked down to the concession stand to get a drink. Plenty of time before all the pre-game stuff & plenty of time for us to get in trouble too.
As we were walking, we had to pass a rather lengthy stretch with a chain link fence. Along that fence were some players from another team, maybe 6 or 8 of 'em. They were bigger than Wes & me. No parents or other adults around.
I don't know all the things they said but it was a lot. And it was stuff they must have heard & repeated many times before. Wes was called all sorts of names. He was told to "go back to Africa with the rest of the ... " You get the picture. And I wasn't spared because I was with him & they began to taunt me with things like "you lover of his kind too?"
I didn't know what to do but I knew what they were doing was wrong. I was afraid because there were more of them & in both number & size. Wes & I couldn't do anything except walk on past & take it.
We didn't talk about it. Neither of us knew what to say to other. I was ashamed for what they had done & was mad as blue blazes at 'em too. But mostly I was mad at myself for not doing [i]something[/i]. I felt like I had let a good friend down in the worst way.
Today it is easy to know what I should have done: found an adult & tell the story. But as a 12 year old kid who is scared, it ain't that easy. The worst part is I know now that if I had found an adult & told what had happened, I may have gotten an even harsher response.
I remember looking at Wes as they were saying those things; mostly I was looking for a cue as to what to do. To this day, the thing that I remember most is that Wes changed for those 15 seconds or so. He stood up straighter & held his head a bit higher. There was no clinched fist or glare or frown or anything like that. What there was, was an air of his being resolute; that he was bigger than that; that he had risen above it; & proud that things were different in the "real" world, even if a bunch of kids were still living in the past.
Honestly, I was proud of Wes. Still am proud of him, too. And I'm still ashamed that I didn't do something
What I can do, is do something today.
Luke 6:31 Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!
--- The Message