My friend, Marcellas, is a 41 year old African-American man who lives in a small apartment along with his five children, and often two to three other adults. No further description is needed about my friend.
Marcellas had a kidney transplant in 1999 and is currently on dialysis four hours a day, three days a week. As often as possible I try to meet him to share a sandwich, offer him some encouragement, and hopefully a bit of sanity in his crazy, jumbled life. We often meet at a fast food location, as two to three of his children will likely be with him. If they are not with him we meet at a “meat and three” place in Nashville.
Last week I met him for lunch, and today we’re meeting again as it is his birthday. Near the end of our meal last week his three year old, unannounced, climbed in my lap and asked me to open the toy from her happy meal bag. I did of course; it was some sort of winged bird, push a button on its back and it lights up. After a while Marcellas said to the kids, “It’s time to go.” With that, his three year old, Peanut (that’s what I call her because she’s just a little bit), who was sitting on my lap, took her hands and cupped them around my face and said, “Will you take me to the car?” How can one resist such a request? As we got to the restaurant door she took my hand, really a couple fingers, and we started across the parking lot toward their car. Her sister took my other hand.
Here is the picture, me a white guy, golf shirt, khaki pants, loafers, about as traditional as one can get, with two small black children holding my hands walking across a fast food parking lot. When we got to the car Peanut and her sister asked that I help buckle them into their car seats. Marcellas and his brood left, and as I walked to my car I was made to think of an old racially bigoted relative I once had and I thought to myself, “I wish you could have observed this scene today, you old rascal.”
As I pulled from the parking lot onto Harding Road the question came to me. “I wonder when kids learn their colors. Who teaches them color?” Oh, soon enough they learn their colors all right.
I hope the days continue when no child is afraid or uncomfortable to ask a person of another color,
April 26, 2011