Still Dreaming

The Hunk and I are in a tight financial season, so for the past couple years I’ve been cleaning a few houses on the side. I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes to clean.  It’s another way I make art – in the small touches that bless others.

Today I cleaned a house that takes all day every Monday. There was nothing special about today’s work except this family is interracial. As the radio played, reminding us of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contribution to our world, I thought about my current position: a white woman  serving in an interracial home. I wasn’t the lawyer or the doctor or the decorator there for a visit –  I was the hired help. It made me laugh. And I wasn’t just a white woman cleaning for a black family – oh, no. I was cleaning for an interracial family – a concept that still makes heads spin in some circles. I laughed some more.

I was born in 1964, and my growing up years began in a blue-collar neighborhood in New Jersey. Everyone worked hard for a living and we were all mixed up – a black family there, a Korean family across the street, an Irish Catholic family two houses down. My dad is Dutch/German and my mom is Italian. The kids on my street played together and went to school together, blissfully ignorant of the turmoil in the world around us. My best friend in the third grade was Paschell Simmons – a beautiful girl with  dark brown skin and a smile that never quit. We held hands as we walked through the halls and shared our deepest secrets.  My church was a wee little non-denominational body where everyone was all mixed up, too. That was my normal.

When we moved to Florida things changed. I was beat up almost every day of the 5th grade by a large black girl named Ruth. I later discovered the bathroom I used my first day there was unlabeled “black girls only.” The teachers would tell you otherwise, but the students knew. Except the new white girl from Jersey. I told Ruth I was sorry and that made things a little better, but it depended on her mood any given day. My grandmother gets full credit for my loving attitude toward this angry child, because I probably would have booby-trapped her lunchbox if given half a chance.

I survived the culture shock of living in the south for the most part still blissfully unaware. Sometimes I think maybe God protected me then so I could see more clearly now. Today we attend a multicultural church that’s all mixed up with one service almost entirely filled with our homeless friends.  Many people think we’re weird. It’s where I’m most comfortable – all mixed together and weird.

I’m honored and humbled by what my friends and I learn from each other.  We’re living the Dream… and still Dreaming for more, Dr. King.

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