Four weeks ago in a darkened Theater I, along with my family and my parents, watched the story of Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter, Hilly and a host of other characters unfold with a mix of truth, humor, sadness, and challenge. This was a fascinating story of life from the perspective of “the help”. I don’t think anyone could watch the movie without being stirred within.
What shocked me was how strongly I responded walking into the hallway following the movie after catching my mothers’ eye. A deep cry poured out of my heart as questioning eyes looked at me wondering what was going on……….I knew.
Prejudice. For two hours I had come face to face with the ugliness of prejudice causing my thoughts to reflectively take me back to my first experience with it at the age of 4.
It was in the early 60’s when my parents, while away at a retreat center, committed to the Lord to do whatever He asked them to do. Within a couple weeks they received a call that a teenager from Kenya, Munyi, was in need of a place to live until he could finish his high school experience. At the time my parents had three little girls ages 5, 3, and 20 months yet they felt certain that this was something they wanted to do.
In preparation for Munyi’s arrival my parents met with a large group at their Methodist Church asking for their relational and emotional support as this young man came to be a part of the family. The church didn’t want to lend their support; in fact the leaders didn’t agree with my parents even opening their home to him. At the end of the meeting my mother stood up expressing that, frankly, she didn’t care what they thought. Period.
Months after Munyi had come into our home my parents experienced a shunning, hateful responses from the neighborhood and the church; received threatening phone calls, even the church youth pastor who lived across the street would not talk to them. This was my first experience with the ugliness of prejudice.
Munyi experienced loneliness both in the church and in the High School setting. My parents, in response to that, sought out an International Fellowship at San Jose State to possibly find other African young men to build some friendship with him. Ultimately two young men, Eliston & Dixon, came to be apart of our family. I had three brothers. It was a wonderful time and it was such a treasure to share life with them.
As you can imagine, my parents left the Methodist church and we eventually moved to Watsonville, CA where our lives were fully immersed in a multi-cultural growing experience for which I am eternally grateful. I am most thankful for parents who stood strong in their convictions, never bowing to public opinion! They continue to live the same way today.
Munyi finished High School and went on with his life ~ he expressed in a newspaper article that he wanted to eventually go back to Kenya because he cared about the people there. Dixon married and opened a successful store in Mariposa, Elliston went on to become Kenya’s Ambassador to Zaire.
Prejudice, no matter who it is aimed at is wrong. And yet prejudice can be a sneaky thing, seeping into our attitudes and thoughts. Scripture calls us to “Love our neighbor AS we love ourselves.” Let’s be people who choose love at all costs; let’s be like David and Beverly Wray.