Today is Martin Luther King Day. A day set aside for remembering a man who made it possible to celebrate change for all people. Growing up as an military kid, this day and topic always makes me remember 1976 when I was in third grade in Daleville, Alabama. My father was stationed at Ft. Rucker and we lived in the post community next door. Our classroom was a colorful quilt of nationalities.
A new girl sat on my left who had silky black hair and could barely speak English yet had the sweetest heart of courage. A hilarious boy had a crush on me and we would walk home together. My Sunday School friend had the most beautiful braids with every hair in place every Sunday. She was so pretty! I chose my boyfriend because he had the brownest kindest eyes.
I saw they were Korean, black and white -I wasn't blind. They were different from me and me from them. They were my friends because they let me be me. We were just kids and really more concerned with who won red-rover at recess and had bragging rights! Important stuff! And who was going to be moving next. My boyfriend moved to Iran right before the Iran hostage crisis and I have never seen him again. I had to learn later that we were all very different.
It was important, I guess, for adults to point out those differences and never let us forget what happened to others. I loved those days before I understood what horrible things people did to each other in the name of justice or righteousness or something that made them fight each other. Then I realized that I was white and I was on the "bad" side. How could I be? I would never think this way about my dear friends! But, the white and black adults in my life explained we were to celebrate that this was in the past. "Look how far ALL of us have come?" was the message loud and clear to us as children. Yes! That is worth celebrating! Not everyone feels like we have changed at all or much, but this movement for change, gave this girl a colorful quilt of beautiful friends to know and learn from and laugh with! Your differences make life so vivid and exciting. Your paintings are always an extension of your originality. That's what I celebrate today...all of you!