Faithful Fridays - by Richard Easley
I’m an Army brat and I was born in Okinawa. A beautiful place that I was fairly recently able to take my beautiful wife to visit – and show her the floor on the Army hospital where I took my very first breath of life. I’ll tell you that story sometime if you ask me. As a brat, we followed my dad from military assignment to military assignment around the world. My mom, my dad, my older brother (3 years older) and little old me. We lived in Presidio in San Francisco…. Ankara, Turkey… Roswell, New Mexico… Philadelphia, PA… White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico… San Antonio, TX (twice)… Camp Zama Tokyo, Japan… Walter Reed Army Medical Center (Washington, DC)… Those were the places where we lived as a family when I was growing up. As an adult and married man, Sharon and I have now visited 48 of the United States and 44 countries around the world. Very, very blessed. I have been places where they have never seen a black person before. Never touched curly hair before (there’s another story there…). We have even been to a place and met people that had never heard of the United States! All this to say that I have been treated like a superstar in some places. I have been treated like I carry the plague in other places. I have always held my head up and I have always felt that God had me there at that location, at that time for a purpose. I have never been anywhere that I have not learned something new and am better off for it. We have established friendships around the world that started out as two strangers sitting at a table and ended with ‘please come to our house and stay with us as long as you’d like and be our guests’. Friends that we still keep in touch with today! God is good.
So, what’s troubling you Richard? Well, as you know, there is a tremendous amount of racial unrest and exposed ignorance in our country and around the world right now. The fact that there is systemic racism in every part of our country is nothing new to me. The fact that there is racism and prejudice in countries around the world is clear to me. What is most troubling is that so many people I see are actually denying its existence. People that I think would/should know better. The fact that everyone is not speaking up in the face of injustice for ANY group of Americans is testing my faith. Would God allow his children to sit idly by while evil rears its head among brothers and sisters? Should I, as one of His children, stand up to evil? Should I, as one of His children, love my brothers and sisters that perpetrate that evil upon me and people that look like me? There is a saying that you should love the sinner but not the sin. That takes a very strong person with a very strong faith. I fear, that is a faith much stronger than mine. Sometimes I’m OK with the counterpoint-of-view of shaking the dirt from my sandals and leaving those that harbor racist views toward peaceful, loving, good people of color in my rear-view mirror. Another murder…. another killing …. another not guilty… another justifiable homicide… another ‘stand your ground’… I’ve seen this all of my life. It’s not new – but I thought the people I go to church with, the people I have known for many years, the people I care deeply about, would never stand for such events and would ALWAYS know that when racist acts prevail, we do not remain silent. It hurts deeply to know that this is not the case. It’s sad to see that politics can so deeply distort human rights and justice into a liberal or conservative fighting point.
I remember when my dad would take me to visit his friends that he grew up with. They were all very old men. I’d ask him if they were his teachers or some other elder. He would tell me they were classmates and that most were actually younger than my dad!! He explained to me that being black in this country takes a great toll on a person and ages you beyond your natural years. That really makes sense to me now more than ever when we see who is most affected by COVID-19. Life is hard both physically and mentally when you are constantly struggling with prejudice and racist conditions.
What most people don’t know about me is that I have five first cousins. Debbie, Lamar, Leon, Timmy, and Michael. As a military brat, between changes of station for my dad, we would make brief visits to my parents’ home town in Marietta, Georgia (right outside Atlanta). I love my cousins. They were pretty cool and all of them were older than me with Debbie being the oldest. Of my five cousins all of the boys are dead. One died of brain cancer. 3 were murdered. All but one spent time in prison. Debbie’s husband faced attempts made by people that tried to murder him – he is an aerospace engineer. My cousins all stayed right there in Marietta. I think about my cousins. There but for the grace of God go I… My dad took us with him on all of his military assignments (except two tours of Vietnam). God is good.
Back to my faith… There is also a tremendously bright spot in my life these days. Many, but not all, of my friends and brothers and sisters at St. David’s actually want to learn more about my life and other people of color that have endured racism all of our lives. As a black man, I have many stories of racist experiences that have impacted my life. Those stories are not shared. They are painful, they leave very nasty scars. They have created sleepless nights. But really, how do I sit at a restaurant with friends talking about the weather and the low carb diet and then bring up the story of how a truck load of ‘Bandidos’ (an outlaw gang in Texas) pulled up alongside of me and my wife. We were on our motorcycle going 70 MPH on the freeway and they shouted racist things from the back of their truck and started throwing full cans of beer at our wheels and tried to lodge a can in my motorcycle chain drive so we would crash in the middle of high-speed traffic? That’s not exactly a story that folks want to hear. So, I never tell the many stories like that. But now we have the Building Beloved Community racial reconciliation classes at St. David’s. My heart soars. I feel seen. I feel heard. I no longer feel alone when I’m in the midst of people that want to be part of the solution. I feel loved. I feel Christ. Black Lives Matter. I matter. WE matter equally and those brave souls taking the BBC class are doing their part to actually get us to the point where we REALLY DO matter equally. God is good. I’d like to say that my ‘Faithful Friday’ is a positive story about how strong my faith is but as I write this, I know that my faith wavers at times. My faith is hidden at times. One thing I know… I may not have the strongest faith to keep God’s Peace in my heart when I hear of yet another murder based on the color of a person’s skin. I may not have God’s Peace in my heart when I hear another ‘friend’ or politician proclaim to the world that racism no longer exists in this country. I may be struggling to find my faith at times but I always know that God sees me. God hears me. God loves me and that this is one of those points where two sets of footprints in the sand goes to just one set of footprints. God is carrying me through this.