You Aren't One of Us!
A Reflective Word from Elizabeth Rice Handford
When Walt and I moved down to Greenville from Chicago, our kids within a week picked up the beautiful drawl of the Carolinas. It took a little longer for Walt and me to shed our sharp northern accents, but by the time we'd lived here for twenty years, I really thought my southern accent was authentic. I ate black-eyed peas on New Year's day. I voted for Strom Thurmond. I thought Myrtle Beach was better than any other vacation spot in the universe. I felt like a South Carolinian-
-until one day I sat under the hairdryer in a beauty salon talking to other women also being broiled to a bright lobster pink under the hair dryers. The conversation amongst us was about light things: a child sickening with chicken pox, how to get grass stains out of a new pair of white trousers, and would the price of ground beef go up again?
Suddenly a woman jerked her dryer free, leaned forward, and stared at me. After a moment, she said, in tones so cold they chilled my soul,
"I don't know who you are,
But you sure aren't one of us!"
I'm not "one of us?" when I'm a real Carolinian? I'm not "one of us" when for twenty years we've lived in this community? The thought broke my heart.
But there are other broken hearts, far worse than mine, broken because of a genetic inheritance, they are (in gesture and deed, if not in word) unwelcome. Isn't today, on Martin Luther King's birthday, the time to do something about it? As eloquent as his "dream" speech was, we cannot ourselves fulfil his dream. We cannot dispel the divisions among us. But God's grace can do it. Ephesians chapter two tells us how:
"Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. . . . You were excluded from God's people. . . . You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us"
This Scripture says a wall of hostility separates us. Northerners, southerners. English- or Spanish-speaking. Men or women. Young or old. Separated by our "hostility;" our anger against each other. We must come to realize we are alike in more ways than we are different. Only as we confess that God created all of us human beings in His image will our hearts be changed so that we can love each other as God commands us to.
The Apostle John reports that someday this really will happen. "I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9,10)
People from every nation, every language, every era, every family, will someday forget their anger and hostility against each other, and join their hearts to praise God.
What a wonderful fulfillment that will be of Martin Luther King's dream!