During the drive from Bryan to Houston yesterday, I thought about a phone conversation I had with a friend shortly after arriving in Waco Saturday. He’d shared several examples of racism that he’d encountered over the last couple of days and as I thought about the call, it reminded me of an incident that happened as I checked out of the hotel in Waco. The desk clerk had stepped away and as I waited for her, an elderly white gentleman came up to check out as well, and we chatted while waiting. Upon the clerk’s return, she glanced momentarily at me but then focused her full attention on him and asked if she could help him. He informed her, however, that “this young lady was here before me.”
I could easily have taken her actions personally and been offended–and I probably would have not so many months ago–but I decided instead to maintain my peace and not let someone else’s behavior, or even beliefs, disrupt my day. After all, there could’ve been several reasons other than racism as to why she chose to assist him first–age before beauty comes to mind. She might have even considered where he was standing to be the head of the line. But whatever her reason, they were hers. And whether or not she got it, I think the gentleman made the point and I went on to enjoy the day exploring Lake Waco, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Indian Springs Park.
This is not meant to trivialize racism, or pretend that it doesn’t exist because I’m fully aware that it does. The point I’m making is that maybe we sometimes expect to be slighted or mistreated without even realizing it and end up attracting that very thing. And why is it that when things happen, we always assume the worst and take it personally? Maybe what I’m suggesting will be perceived as Pollyanna by some but it seems to me that life would be much easier and a lot more pleasant if we start expecting the best from each other, or looking for God in each other, as it were. In those instances where racism is the issue, deal with it but without taking it personally. Believe me, if the gentleman hadn’t told the desk clerk that I was first in line, I would have….and still gone about my day in peace.
By the way, it looks like I’ve missed another celebration: the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. A favored writer and author of the acclaimed Their Eyes Were Watching God and many others, Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, which was one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It was incorporated in 1887. Eatonville stages the festival every winter; this year it was January 21-29. My friend went; maybe I’ll make it next year.
By the way, too, I finally made it to Houston after leaving Waco Sunday and spending Sunday night in Bryan. It was a wonder I made it here at all today because I kept stopping along Highway 6 to take pictures of barns and dilapidated buildings for a couple of friends. I was tired and feeling a little down when I arrived so instead of exploring Houston, I came directly to my hotel and spent the evening talking with family and friends. What great medicine that was!