The Little Rock Nurse
It’s the day after Martin Luther King Jr Day. Yesterday people quoted him across social media. I was quiet. I love to read about him, and I wish he were reborn in our time. I show my sons videos of his speeches. I do the best I can, but in conversations about race, I confess that I am more quiet, even though I feel lava rolling in me about it.
Recently I told some friends that scales fell from my eyes in the last few months. I had thought we lived in a better time. I read God-fearing men and women across media outlets cast an entire race of people into an ignorant lot. I read us vs them again and again. The scales fell off, and then I did’t know what to do except lean in.
I am leaning into uncomfortable places. Recently in Duvalls Bluff, Arkansas, we stopped at Craig’s Barbecue, how we always do on our way home from Alabama. That place could have sludge dripping from the ceiling, and I’d still stop. It’s so good that I would risk eating food that may or may not pass food codes of any sort. A woman stepped out to take orders. I had been sitting there for several minutes, but a black couple had just walked in the door. The woman took their order first, and when they sat down, they realized I had been there before they had and gently apologized. “No big deal,” I said.
We were sitting then in a cricket-less silence, one table away from each other. I could have touched them. She was gorgeous, and so was he, tall with a great hat. After a minute, we began the small talk. They were from Duvalls Bluff but now live in Chicago. She was home to care for her mother.
When I got my food, dripping in white paper sacks, I stood and said, “Peace to you,” and they spoke peace on me. This is all I know. Take the little chances. Speak the peace, listen, and maybe learn to write.
This is my doing the best I know how, writing another such story for A Deeper Story.
“She smiled big, her brown eyes and skin, so familiar to me in a strange way. I didn’t grow up around a single soul with brown skin and didn’t go to school with a person of color until I was in college. This is insane, I know, but our little mountain was home to a very few country folk, and we were all a nice blend of cream. To say that this has messed up my perspective is an understatement.”