I was told this story by a co-worker at a place I worked years ago. Oh, I should mention the co-worker just happened to be black. That is an integral part of the story. I'll call my co-worker Jim because
1. To protect the innocent and
2. I've forgotten his name.
Jim was born and raised in So. California. Los Angeles County to be more exact. This story takes place in the very early 60's. I'm telling it as I remember it but you should know know I heard it in the early 80's. The conversation recounted might not be exact the the meaning was there...
One summer when Jim was 9-10 years old he was sent to visit his grandparents and family in Little Rock, Arkansas. He got to play with cousins and neighborhood children and had a really good time. Until one day a two white boys riding on a single bicycle came into the black neighborhood. One was sitting on the handlebars, had a BB gun and was shooting it off. He hit Jim's girl cousin in the face with a BB.
Jim saw which way they were heading and took off through a couple yards. On his way he found a loose board and picked it up. As the boys on the bicycle rounded a corner they were confronted by Jim with his board.
The kid on the handlebars was hit in the face with that board. A tangle of white boys and bicycle with a black boy smacking them. About this time one of the neighbors came out and grabbed Jim and dragged him away to his grandparents house. Jim didn't realize what he had done. For a black boy in early 60's Arkansas to hit a white boy with a board, a fist or a marshmallow was a capital offense. Even if he was defending his cousin against a BB gun.
This was the point in time that they told him that he would be killed for hitting a white boy. Jim was scared and didn't understand. In California where he was from black and white kids played together and sometimes would fight without all this broohaha. They would fight, stop fighting and go back to playing. Why was it so different here?
Jim's grandparents hid him at another neighbor's house while they dealt with the police and as soon as it got dark they had friends drive him out of the city. He told me of how confused and scared he was as he was hiding in the back seat covered with a blanket and trash. They took him to Texas and put him on a bus for home.
So much for a fun summer vacation at grandma's and grandpa's house.
Fast forward to the very late 70's. Jim is visiting his grandparents in Little Rock. Enough time had passed and he no longer resembled the little black boy that whacked a white boy. Besides, Arkansas had changed quite a bit. The entire country had changed quite a bit. Dr. Martin Luther King had made his 'I have a dream speech' and it took hold. People were working on judging other people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. By all means racism had not ended but it was riding the back bumper not driving the car.
Jim, decided to go to the movies one day. While he was sitting in the movie theatre, waiting for the movie to start, more people coming in, a white man entered the theatre and sat next to him. No longer were the drinking fountains and rest rooms labled white and black. In Little Rock a white man and black man could sit side by side in a movie theatre. No shouts of nigger lover resounded as would have in previous years.
He and the white gentleman started a conversation. Usual small talk. Jim from California. Other guy born and raised in Little Rock. It turned onto the subject of changes in attitudes concerning the races in America.
Jim told him of his previous visit to little Rock and of the kid with the BB gun and him with the plank.
That was when the man said, "I'm so glad to meet you. I've felt so bad ever since that day I shot at your cousin and you whacked me with the board. I was a real little ass and have regretted my actions of that day. I was worried they would find you and kill you because of me and was real glad you got away. I want to tell you I'm sorry for what I did."
Jim apologised for whacking him with the board and the two were able to watch the movie together with uplifted hearts.
They left the theatre as friends.
Reconciliation can do wonders for the soul!
prying1 sez: Was it a coincidence that these two, nearly 20 years after the offense were able to get a burden off their hearts? I think not. - Divine appointments are great. - This was one of them.
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