Sixty years ago, nine teenagers braved Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. These nine teenagers were walking into a school that did not want them. There were, in fact, members of the National Guard keeping them from entering high school. Because they were black, they were not welcome. They were surrounded by chants of, “Two-four-six-eight! We don’t want to integrate!” They were spat upon and verbally abused. Throughout the year they were subjected to physical attacks and witnessed the burning of a black effigy. But the law…now, the law said they could be there. It says they had a RIGHT to be there. The law, though… it doesn’t change a person’s heart, does it?
I’m looking today, but I’m not seeing much about them in the news. I wonder if our kids will hear about it in school. Probably not. There’s a lot of talk about a president tweeting and some sports figures taking a knee, but nothing on these nine teenagers. See, rules don’t change a heart. They can give the appearance of a changed heart because behaviors change, but that doesn’t mean there has been a change of heart. I can tell my adolescent daughter not to listen to certain music but if she wants to listen to it, she’ll just find another way to do it. If a body doesn’t like a rule, it just finds sneaky ways around it. A little less obvious, but still just as devious.
I’m praying for our people, for some hearts to be changed. I’m praying some hard but necessary steps of self-examination would be taken. I’m going to be real honest here…if you’re reading this and thinking people are overreacting but have not.even.once. read a book/had a conversation/listened to a story from someone with a different life experience, your judgement is faulty. Would a man who has sat with a woman through childbirth tell her she is overreacting? Even though he doesn’t physically feel the pain, he is (hopefully) aware of it’s presence and empathetic. Would a friend who sat with a woman through the pain of infertility tell that friend she just needs to get over it? Hopefully not, because seeing that pain should make you pause. When someone around us has had a different life experience, the best thing to do is listen. Before you judge, listen. Before you speak, listen. Before you act, listen.
I’m only in the beginning stages of this listening and I’m still figuring stuff out. I’m going to make a mess and likely screw up a whole bunch. But I want to listen. I’m going to try. I’m praying for others to fumble through this with me.