Firecrackers, loud music, and loudspeakers awakened me several times this morning. Mothers’ Day is a big thing here in Honduras.
I was going to resist the trend to do the “Salute to Mom,” who died 28 years ago. But I thought I’d share how I see my mother as an inspiration for who I am and what I do.
My mother married Dad in 1940. A few years later Dad was drafted into the army for the Second World War. He ended up in the Sea-Bees and did his training in Biloxi, Mississippi.
There Dad got to know Eddie, another Sea-Bee who was from Philadelphia, and arranged for Mom and his friend’s wife, Margot, to meet to come visit them.
The women met in Philadelphia’s train station and headed down to Mississippi.
They spent several days with their husbands but at one point the men had to go out to sea for training for a few days. So the women decided to go to see New Orleans.
As they got on the bus, they noticed some people standing in front; yet there were seats in the back of the bus. They went and sat down.
The people in the front turned and stared at them. This was, after all, the segregated south, and here were two white women sitting in the “colored” section.
My mother’s response was perfect. She and Margot stayed there.
Mom said that she wasn’t going to stand all the way to New Orleans. After all, in Philadelphia, she went to school with blacks; they all sat wherever they wanted in the Philly busses and trolleys.
And so she sat with the “coloreds” all the way to New Orleans.
This was no big deal for her. It was just doing what was normal – even though it might not be the “norm” in the segregated south.
After all, she grew up in the Meadows, a Philadelphia neighborhood where blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Pentecostals lived side by side (and played basketball in the gym of the Catholic church). Her father was very anti-Catholic but the environment of the neighborhood was open and accepting.
This story of Mom’s experience in the South continues to give meaning to my life – not only her breaking the segregation code, but even more importantly her sense that this was nothing special. To live side by side with others who might be different is normal.
It is, I believe, the norm of the Kingdom of God.