Hope for Unity Day by Day

Divisiveness is a word I’d never paid much attention to until I officially became an adult and began teaching school in Cambridge, Maryland, following my graduation from Frostburg State College (now University) in 1968.

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You need to understand that I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught that all people are equal in God’s sight. My father served as a minister in Farmville, Virginia, for the first eight years of my life. He left that pastorate in 1955 because he foresaw what was coming and knew his congregation would never tolerate his loving, tolerant attitude towards people of color and even shut down the school system to avoid integration.

When we moved to Norfolk in 1959 I ran into the effects of prejudice more personally. Mayor Duckworth–I referred to him as Duckworthless because I resented him so much–refused to let the schools open that fall for several months in opposition to integration. Once the schools finally opened, we had to attend classes on Saturday for a while to make up some of the lost days.

Integration was in, but in my six years in Norfolk, I don’t think I knew a single black person.

When my father took a pastorate in Cumberland, Maryland, I began attending the local community college which, incidentally, was meeting in what had previously been the black high school, I had at at least one good black friend. Neither of us had any reason for prejudice. We viewed one another as individuals, not members of different races.

During my senior year at Frostburg and during the summer, I started applying for teaching positions throughout the state. When I heard back from Dorchester County–Cambridge–I didn’t even have to return from my summer job in North Carolina for an interview. They were desperate, and I got the job over the phone.

Yes, they were desperate, but little did I know why. I’d been in school, isolated from any knowledge of the race riots there in 1963 and 1967.

Teaching in 1968 brought me into the remnants of hatred and prejudice, even though I’d been brought up to oppose such things. Things were still tense, and I couldn’t escape the reminders of what had gone on several years before, including the burning of seventeen buildings.

The tension reached a high point for me personally in 1970 when H. Rap Brown was to be tried in absentia for inciting the riots.

After dreaming I’d heard a gunshot during the night preceding the trial, I learned from my landlord’s daughter that my dream had actually been the dynamiting of one corner of the courthouse, which was just a block or two (as the crow flies) from my apartment. Was recent history going to repeat itself so soon?

I don’t recall the names of any of my less lovable black students, but I can still remember many of the ones who were as accepting of me as I was of them. Much to my pleasure, one of them has become a good friend on Facebook.

I had one extremely close black friend during my teaching days. Close enough that he and another friend were happy to drive to Illinois to participate in the wedding to my first wife.

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I hate the racial divisiveness that seems to have come back into America stronger than ever during the last eight to ten years. It’s so unnecessary.

That’s one reason I so enjoy walking at the mall, where I see an equal number of blacks and whites and no obvious signs of prejudice on anyone’s part.

I usually see two particular black ladies, one of whom is pushing a double stroller with two of the cutest little kids. We–the kids as well as the ladies–are so used to my coming over to speak to them that they realize I’ve grown to love those children in a special way. No matter how squirmy they were, the boys didn’t object to my taking this picture.

Although the smaller boy in front can be quite shy at times, he’s usually willing to give me a handshake. He obviously doesn’t know what prejudice is, and that gives me a sense of hope for much-needed unity, if only for the duration of that day.

But I know I’ll see those kids again, and I pray that–as they grow older and are no longer being pushed around the mall–they’ll grow up to be among the best of the best, helping to replace divisiveness with true unity.

Feel free to comment about this or any of my other posts.

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I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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A B&B-Hoppin’ Vacation


Only since marrying Kathleen in 2003 have I learned what staying at a bed-and-breakfast is like. We’ve done it on several short getaways in the past, but this time we took a week-long vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Staying ONLY at B&Bs, we returned home this past Wednesday.

What a unique experience! No two places were alike.

Probably the nicest one was at Cape Charles, just a mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel coming from Virginia Beach, where we’d spent the day at the Virginia Aquarium and on a Dolphin spotting cruise. The rooms were spacious, and we had a wonderful private balcony, from which I enjoyed taking pictures of the sunset.

    

From there we went to Ocean City, where we stayed at the Inn on the Ocean, which is supposedly the only B&B in Ocean City. What made it so special was it’s right on the boardwalk. Despite Kathleen’s arthritic knee, walking some on the boardwalk wasn’t too much of a problem.

One high point of our time in OC was meeting a former English student of mine–she “just happened” to be coming to OC for the week on one of our days there–for an evening meal. Another high point was a visit to Assateague Island, where we were able to see some of the wild horses.

    

Our room in OC was smaller than at Cape Charles, but the breakfasts were great, and so was sitting on the front porch to eat.

After two days in Ocean City–it has a much better boardwalk than Virginia Beach–we spent two days in Cambridge. Our B&B there, the Albanus Phillips Inn, has quite a history–it’s a restored mansion, and we actually had a suite for the price of a room. Our host sat at the breakfast table with us and told us tale after fascinating tale about the house and about Albanus Phillips himself.

    

Because I used to live in Cambridge, a visit to my old church enabled us to see some of the folks I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. It was the pastor’s last day at the church–he’s retiring–and we were blessed by seeing him and his wife, both of whom had been students of mine while I was still teaching school.

We spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting two of the best friends I’ve ever had and then a lengthy supper with two others. We had to go to Walmart to say hi to one old friend who had to work during the time we didn’t already have plans for.

    

On Monday we drove to Crisfield to take a forty-five minute ferry to Smith Island; although the islanders have vehicles, visitors aren’t allowed to.

    

Since the Island’s two restaurants close at 4:00 when the last ferry to the mainland leaves, our B&B hostess was nice enough (for a reasonable extra cost) to fix us the most wonderful crab cake dinner that evening and provide a slice of famous Smith Island cake, Maryland’s state dessert; it has from eight to ten VERY thin layers. Interestingly, she doesn’t live in the B&B. Since we were the only guests that night, we had the house to ourselves.

          

The house faces the water. Smith Island is VERY small. I don’t know how many people live there, but I suspect the number is in the lower hundreds. Church–the island has only a Methodist church–plays a big part in the lives of the islanders. Most of the islanders are water-men, although some people commute (by ferry, of course) to the mainland to work. Incidentally, the streets are few and quite narrow, and cars don’t have license plates. Crime is non-existent among these folks, all of whom probably know one another.

We enjoyed a private boat ride around the island (Smith Island is actually made up of several tiny islands, each with a town of its own; we stayed at Ewell, the largest town.)

         

On Tuesday we ferried back to the mainland, returned to Cape Charles, and spent another night at the same B&B we’d stayed at on our first night. Not counting the suite in Cambridge, the rooms there were unquestionably the biggest and most comfortable.

It’s impossible to describe a week’s vacation–especially one that was one of our best vacations yet–in a few hundred words or to show you more than a few of the dozens of pictures I took.

If you’ve never stayed in a B&B, you might want to consider trying it sometime. 

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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