Author Archives: Don L. Searle

About Don L. Searle

Retired magazine writer and editor; novelist; photographer; married to my college sweetheart for more than 50 years; father of five; grandfather of 18.

The Upside of a Dumb Phone

My smartphone is back. That is a good thing–I think. But there were some blessings in being without it.

The latest automatic software update had blown its mind. The phone developed some kind of electronic neurosis, insisting I could not make calls without a software update, but insisting at the same time that the software was already up to date. After three weeks of struggle, I had to send it away for repair.

Living with a dumb old flip phone for three weeks or more underscored some valuable lessons. One is that I can do without a lot of the fun apps that I have loaded onto my smartphone. Another is that I’ve been missing out on some interesting experiences while my eyeballs have been glued to that small screen.

During the time that I was unable to check the news, Facebook, or email several times a day, I had a number of interesting conversations with my wife or others that would not have occurred otherwise. I enjoyed my surroundings more, both indoors and out. I had more time to think and ponder ideas and spiritual concepts. I found more time for writing. The thinking—meditating—part was especially enjoyable.

I don’t want to give those things up. Now that I have my smartphone back, I haven’t reinstalled some of those apps, including social media. There are some new rules I try to observe, like keeping the phone in my pocket while I’m at the dinner table. I carry around a notepad when I go to the doctor’s office, or some other place where I might have to wait, so I can spend the time writing instead of idly browsing news sites or the Internet.

The idea of giving up the smartphone entirely and sticking with the flip phone is attractive. The main reason I don’t do it is that texting is so hard on that tiny keyboard. It’s much more difficult to respond to family and friends. Secondarily, a smartphone is often the fastest and most efficient—and sometimes the only practical—way to do business these days.

But I think I’m through buying the newest, shiniest, most gosh-golly-awesome smartphone on the market. The device is great for communicating, but too demanding and too addicting. If you run your life using your smartphone, soon you may find that the phone is running you. As I’ve begun using my smartphone again, I’ve turned off as many alerts and notifications as I can.

I enjoyed being able to give attention to the life being lived around me. I enjoyed laying the phone aside to talk with others. I enjoyed writing the old-fashioned way—just me and my thoughts, pen and paper. Sure, I’m using my tablet to type this. But it was written on my notepad while I was waiting to see the doctor.

Some days I’m still not sure about this smartphone. I’m still tempted to dig that cheap flip phone out of the bottom of the drawer in my desk.

Give the Child a Chance

Many years ago, a young woman expecting her first baby went into labor while her husband was far away at war. The birth was a difficult one and the doctor chose to anesthetize her. She awoke later in the hospital to find her mother and older sister sitting beside her bed. The looks on their faces told her the news might not be good.

My mother and me, ca. 1945

This was in the days before a woman could know the sex or the physical status of her unborn child. They told her that her son had been born with a very visible birth defect which could turn out to be an impairment in life.

But my young mother was blessed with the wisdom and ingenuity to teach me how to deal with that defect so that through almost eight decades of life, it has never been a handicap to me.

At 8 years old.

I suppose today there are women who if they knew their child might have a defect such as mine would abort that baby, so I take the issue of abortion a bit personally.

We hear much of a woman’s right to control her own body. I don’t dispute that right, but I may disagree with others as to when the right should be exercised. When two people willingly engage in the act that creates an unborn child, I believe it is morally wrong—a sin—for them to destroy that life. It is an offense against all humanity.

Where the child was conceived in a consensual relationship, I would hope mother and father will counsel together on any choices about the life of the unborn. (Parenthetically, I believe that men who father babies and then abandon mother and child will face the wrath of the Father of us all.)

Many would disagree with my moral arguments about abortion, and they would feel justified in making decisions I see as wrong. It is not my place to tell them how to manage their lives. But I believe it is tyranny to force me to help pay for actions that violate my conscience and are an assault on my faith.

I believe that every one of us existed as a being of spirit—with intelligence and gender—before we came to live on this earth. We are immortal beings having a mortal experience. We brought with us certain strengths and behavioral characteristics. When we leave this life, we will take with us, as eternal spirit beings, all the knowledge and strength and growth we acquired here. This mortal experience is a step forward on an eternal path. Destroying a viable child is putting a roadblock or detour on the eternal path of another being.

There undoubtedly are circumstances when abortion needs to be an option: if the mother’s life is in danger, if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest and carries with it that horror and trauma.

 Politically, this is a very highly charged issue. Some say it is her life and her body, so the choice is hers alone. That is only partly true. The mother may make the choice alone, but there are two lives and two bodies involved.

Some would say the mother should have the right to abort the child if she knows it is carrying a serious defect. I would plead for the life of the child. Give that baby a chance—please. You can’t know who or what that individual may become. I have lived a full and productive life—married  to a wonderful woman who loved me despite my physical and moral flaws—with  fine children, grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, all free of my birth defect. Yet some people would have erased my life—and theirs.

If you don’t want the baby, there are couples like my daughter and son-in-law willing to help that child grow into an intelligent, productive, unique individual.

Please, if you can find it in your heart, give that child a chance.

Finding Your Place of Peace

Spring_Place of peace

Everyone should have at least one place of peace, a place to find nurturing and renewal for the soul. One of my favorite places is the spring at the head of the canyon nearby.

The spring flows out of a mountain, bounding noisily over rocks and winding through the greenery it nourishes. It is a joyful noise, a hopeful noise. It becomes a creek, flowing down the canyon to provide water for a town and growth for lush pastures.

Sitting by the spring and watching the water’s continuous flow is a reminder that the Creator of this earth generously, constantly supplies our needs. He created an amazingly complex self-sustaining habitat for us, and if we do not foul it up too much, it seems capable of going on indefinitely. This creation is a manifestation of His love for us, His children.

The spring is a reminder of the “living water” Jesus spoke of (John 4:10) that nourishes our eternal spirits. If we will let Him, if we are willing, He will give us that water continually too. Sitting by the spring is a reminder that we can be washed clean through Him.

The spring is not the only place I can find this renewal, but I go there as often as I can.

Do you have a place like the spring? It doesn’t have to be hidden away in the mountains. I have found such places in the countryside or in cities on six continents. Sometimes I have found them under the stars at night.

It only needs to be a place where you can go in your heart and mind to think about the good things in this life—the things you receive, and the things you can give. Even if your everyday surroundings seem grim and depressing, you can make them better this way. I can have the spring in my mind anytime I want it.

Hopelessly optimistic? Not really. I am a natural-born pessimist, something of a skeptic. But I have found through many years of experience that this works. If I focus on the blessings made available to me by a loving Father in Heaven, I am strengthened and refreshed. It works even better when I try to think how I can share the blessings.

Try it. It will help. My wish for you is that you find your own place of peace like the spring.

 

 

The Cure for Killing

A couple of days ago, I had to kill an animal. It was brutal and it still troubles me. It seemed unavoidable, but that excuse doesn’t settle my mind.

We’ve tried everything we could think of to make the groundhogs go away—refilling their holes, chemical irritants, ultrasonic alarms—so they wouldn’t dig under the old rock foundation of our pioneer-era home. Nothing else has worked.

Punxatawney Phil might look cute in one of those Groundhog Day photo ops, but the animals are not cute when they’re undermining your sidewalks and trashing the old fruit room in the cellar, knocking bottles of peaches off the shelves.

Finally we caught one in our trap; it was betrayed by its fondness for cantaloupe. I wasn’t going to simply release it so it could go back to burrowing, nor did I have time to drive it into the next county to find a new home.

I shot it with a high-powered air rifle, hoping death would be quick. It wasn’t. As the animal struggled, it looked at me is if to ask, “Why did you do this to me?”

Perhaps I only imagined that part.

But its behavior that was problematic for me is instinctual, and I felt sad at having to kill the animal for natural behavior. There was nothing about the killing that felt satisfying. It made me feel diminished somehow.

Watching the suffering I caused made me wonder how people can callously and casually use a gun to kill another human being because that person “dissed” them or wore the wrong color tee shirt or took the parking spot they wanted.

Let me be clear: This isn’t a rant about guns or a call to take them away. I believe strongly in the right granted by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution to keep and bear arms. I am a gun owner. I have nothing against hunting if someone plans to use the meat, though I see little “sport” in ambushing an animal from several hundred yards away with a high-powered rifle and scope.

Sometimes the conditions in our world today make me wonder if I need a close-range weapon in the home or to carry for protection.

But we have an obvious, urgent problem in our society with unstable, sociopathic people who use guns deliberately to hurt others. Maybe they’re willing to fire into a passing car just to prove their manhood because they think someone in that vehicle has not treated them respectfully—and they don’t care if they unintentionally kill a one-year-old child riding with a mother. Maybe they’re determined that if the woman they want will not have them, they have the right to rob her of life. Maybe they think that because their life is horrible they have the right to express their pain by gunning down as many people as possible before they are in turn killed.

Whatever the reason, they seem incapable of seeing or understanding the pain and extended suffering they cause to innocent people—not only their victims, but also grieving loved ones left behind.

The powerful gun lobby in this country seems unable to acknowledge or grasp the problem. The knee-jerk reaction is to wrap themselves in the Constitution and vow no one will take away their gun without prying it out of their cold, dead fingers. But unneeded gun violence is an ongoing tragedy that needs a practical, workable solution, not theatrics and threats. If background checks and seizure of guns from people with criminal records or psychiatric problems are not acceptable (and yes, I understand the inherent danger in these), then responsible gun owners need to come up with workable solutions before one-too-many tragedies bring on governmental restrictions they don’t want.

I don’t know the answer to the problem of gun violence, and I don’t know how our society creates dangerous sociopaths who don’t care about the damage they may do in other lives.

What does all of this have to do with shooting a groundhog?

It’s in the realization that some people seem to be able to kill without caring about the life they are taking away from another child of God.

We desperately need to find a cure for that.

Somehow I think it’s found in that old saying about doing unto others as we would want them to do to us. Every religious tradition I know teaches that life is sacred or should be respected. We need learn to how to treat others as if their lives are just as valuable as ours.

Someday we will all answer to God about how well we learned that lesson.

 

 

 

Long Shadows, Lasting Scars

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Walking down a dirt road just before sunset, I noticed the long shadows made by pebbles and small rocks in the dust. I remembered my barefoot days of childhood and thought about how stepping on one of those sharp little rocks could leave a bruise or other injury long after the first sharp pain had faded.

Forty-six years ago, shortly after we moved into our second family home, I was clearing out overgrown bushes when I suffered a small injury. A branch I was holding under

scar on arm

Injuries that might seem small to others can leave lasting scars.

tension suddenly broke, and the sharp tip sprang back at me, raking down my upper arm. It did not cut me, but I bled under the skin, and to this day I carry a scar where I was injured.

Sometimes the injuries we suffer cast shadows that touch our lives for many years. Sometimes emotional and spiritual wounds can leave lifelong scars. The wounds might be accidental or they might be inflicted by others. In either case, we do not have to let the damage be permanent. There is a way to overcome it.

When I was a boy and hurt my foot on a stone, I would go to my mother for comfort. When I grew up, I knew how to put medicine on my own wounds. But rarely can we supply the salve for our own spiritual or emotional wounds. Treatment for these kinds of injuries requires a Healer—someone capable of applying spiritual medicine.

The psalmist looks to God for help. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).

I am a believer in Christ and the healing power of the Atonement he carried out for our sins. In announcing his mission at the beginning of his preaching on the earth, he quoted this from Isaiah: “The  Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

He healed by His touch, just as He can heal us by the way He touches our hearts. In the Gospel of St. Mark we read: “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.” (Mark 1:31).

Jesus did not categorize people by their belief systems; He looked on their hearts. (See 1 Samuel 16:7.) I believe God hears the prayers of all His yearning children who turn to him in sorrow and pain for relief, no matter what their religious tradition may be.

His healing may not come as an immediate cure or miraculous rescue, but answers come in the way that will be for our best good in this life and in the life to come, after we return to Him. We need to be still and listen for His whisperings to us through the Holy Spirit, to be still and feel His soft touch.

In our day He has given us revealed scripture that offers confirming, prophetic witness of the teachings of the Bible. “I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; . . . And they are healed by the power of the Lamb of God: and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out” (1 Nephi 11:31, Book of Mormon).

The Book of Mormon and the Bible, joining together in their witness of Jesus Christ, are fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel 37:16-17 that the “stick of Judah” and the “stick of Joseph” would “become one in thine hand.”

“If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed,” the Book of Mormon teaches (Alma 15:8). This book is a witness to the world that to be fully healed we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Its teachings offer salve for the wounds and sicknesses and hazards of our times. While He lived on earth, He revealed His way in word and deed to the people who surrounded Him. Now, to those who choose to receive it, He has given in the Book of Mormon reaffirming witnesses of His power to heal.

It is up to us whether we turn to Him for healing of the hurts in our hearts and spirits. The cure may take time and faith. But there is no other truly effective treatment for erasing long shadows of the past or the scars of old wounds.

 

Why Do I Believe? Consider the Lilies

Lily DSC00554 BLMatthew 6:28-30 has always been one of my favorite scriptures. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,” Jesus says to those hearing His Sermon on the Mount. “. . . even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Lilies are at the same time fragile and beautiful, yet earthy and sturdy.

Those who believe in evolution find many arguments—some real stretches of the imagination—to explain how every form of life on this planet developed from very small and simple organisms. Evolutionists have many rationales to explain how evolving organisms overcame this obstacle or that obstacle and became the complex plants and animals that we know—including human beings.

But for me, evolution can never explain beauty and variety. How did the plant know it

Yellow-headed blackbird.

One of the varieties of blackbirds.

needed to develop certain colors or varieties of color to survive? Why are there so many different varieties of birds, or lizards? If survival of the fittest was the rule, how is it that there are so many different varieties in the plant and animal worlds?

For me, evolution leaves too many unanswered questions. Those who accept only science as the explanation for all creation answer my questions with laws of genetics, physics, and astronomy. But all of their answers require a leap of atheistic faith in the end: You have to believe that what evolutionists postulate could have happened did indeed happen. And, of course, a god had no part in it.

I believe in God, and that this earth and all the life on it are His creations. I believe that He not only created a functional, self-sustaining ecosystem, but that He, as both the consummate scientist and artist, also made it beautiful for His children. (I have to say parenthetically that many of His ungrateful children are selfishly mucking up this beautiful world He created.)

Many years ago, as part of a school trip, I found myself in San Antonio’s Breckenridge Zoo with my high school biology teacher. We stood gazing at a flamingo in a pond when he said, “Anybody who can’t see that that bird is descended from a fish is a fool.” I gaped at him and answered, “Well, then, I guess you’re looking at a fool.”

Thinking back, I have had to admit he had a point. It would be easy to imagine how some of the organs and systems of the two creatures might be altered to create new life forms. But this does not mean it did happen that way, or that any such changes came about simply as cosmic happenstance.

In Matthew 6:30, Jesus went on to say, “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, . . . shall he not much more clothe you . . .?”

Faith, scripture, and a witness of the Holy Spirit tell me that He created the earth and its environs as a place to send His beloved children—all of us—to school. See, for example, Psalms 148:4-5: “Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.” We are also told that God contemplated all His eternal spiritual offspring before this world existed and established a plan to give them a terrestrial, mortal home: “. . . we will make an earth whereon these may dwell: And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (See Abraham 3:24-25 in a book of modern scripture called The Pearl of Great Price. It can be found at http://www.churchofjesuschrist.org.)

I do not know how long He took to create this earth or what methods He used. He has not given us that information. But I believe that the creation followed a long-term, organized, celestially ingenious plan. He who planned it used eternal, natural laws that we only understand now at very basic levels. I hope that someday, after my time in mortality, I may begin to learn about the mechanics of this creation in some celestial classroom.

In the meantime, if you ask me why I believe, I may simply have to tell you: “Consider the lilies.”

 

 

“Cancel Culture,” Repentance, and Forgiveness

Churchill P1000911

Winston Churchill, who led the British in resisting Nazi tyranny, held racial views that may be considered offensive now. Should he be erased from history? His contributions make it impossible to answer with a simple yes or no.

Many years ago, I had a friend who cheated on his wife in a time of weakness. It could have ended his marriage to a fine woman who was a good wife and mother. But she, in the strength of Christlike charity, agreed to give him another chance. Within a year or two, my friend was able to turn his life around, becoming a stronger husband, father, and a good influence on youth with whom he was called to work.

Today we are living in a “cancel culture” in which people can be punished or ostracized for bad or stupid things they said or did years ago. This is often called “justice.” But it leaves no room for the mercy so badly needed by all of us flawed human beings.

Please raise your hand if there is nothing wicked or mean or stupid in your past.

Well?

Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

We all have done some of those things. There is one from nearly 60 years ago that haunts me still, something I said carelessly in a college class that left someone in tears. The incident puzzled me. I wasn’t mature enough at the time to understand that the words I chose might have sounded cruel to her and to others. Several years later, I was horrified when I realized what she probably thought I meant; it was something far different from what had been in my heart. But there was no way to find her and apologize or explain.

The best we can hope for with experiences like these is to learn and grow through them.

Today, well-known people often have past words or acts dredged up to be used against them. Lesser-known people often have their embarrassing, petty actions captured by the all-seeing mobile phone and broadcast for the world to see. Maybe some of these people deserve public punishment. Maybe some of their obligatory apologies are insincere. But what about those who really mean it? What about those who really have been humbled and learned valuable lessons? Should their careers or lives be destroyed because they made a mistake?

And do we have the wisdom to judge who is sincere? It seems we would be able to learn this only by witnessing their future actions.

We very often go wrong when we judge the past by what is acceptable or normal today. In doing so, we distort history. We fail to learn its lessons when we try to erase the parts that displease us. Some people never truly deserved statues or monuments, but if we pull down all the monuments to people who ever did or said something we find offensive, there won’t be any monuments left. We will also be saying that all the good those people might have done in their lives counts for nothing.

I know another man who spent many years in prison for crimes against children, punishment he fully deserved. He is not repentant now; I would be wary of having him close to my grandchildren. And yet—I am alive to write this because he was there to rescue me from a drainage canal I had gotten myself into when I was four years old. I was struggling not to drown. I can still feel the sticky mud sucking at my feet when I sank under water and touched bottom. He jumped in without hesitation to pull me to safety.

How could I possibly judge the value of this man’s life? I thank God that the responsibility of judging is up to Him, not me.

When we deny others the chance to repent, we break the bridge that we each need to cross ourselves. All of us have need to repent and be forgiven at some time in our lives.

We might think that some people deserve their comeuppance, people whose actions and ideas we don’t like very much. Maybe they do deserve punishment—but maybe it’s not up to us to decide how or when.

Or maybe they actually don’t deserve it. Maybe we aren’t seeing that this experience has shed new light for them and given them the motivation to change.

Either way, forgiveness is our best course. That way, we avoid the trap of self-righteousness and gain the right to ask mercy from God and others. (See Zechariah 7:9; Matthew 6:14-15, 7:1-5.)

In forgiving, we might be allowing some sinner to rebuild a life. We might even be helping to save someone from spiritual drowning.

 

Race, Equality, and Talking to Each Other

Decades ago, in a graduate level class on communications theory, I learned that we rarely talk to another person as he or she really is. Instead, we talk to that person as we conceive the individual to be. We talk to the Other—our concept of who that person is.

In talking with a group, we may speak to the Generalized Other—what we conceive that group to be, based on our experiences with and knowledge of individuals in the group.

This means, in my mind, that the more experiences and knowledge we have in common with an individual, the more likely we are to exchange ideas and beliefs clearly. The greater the gap between us in shared experiences and knowledge, the greater the likelihood of misunderstanding.

I believe this gap in experience and knowledge is at the heart of a lot of our current conflict over racial equality.

As an old white man, I wonder if there is any contribution from me that could be acceptable in trying to close the divide.

I freely admit that I will never face some of the abuse, roadblocks or challenges that African-Americans face constantly because of their skin color. I will never know some of the prejudices they have felt. Because of what people call my “white privilege” I am largely spared those things.

I believe that I recognize racial injustice; I have seen it at work in this country and others. I have always supported civil rights legislation and other legal and social efforts to insure that people of any color have equal opportunity and equal protection in our society. But apparently, believing this and voting for it is not enough these days. Simply saying “I’ve always been for it” could be criticized as “virtue signaling”—jumping on the bandwagon as it is passing by.

Apparently something more is required of me—but what, and how do I approach it?

In all my years, I have had relatively few opportunities to associate closely with black people. That was not by my choice, but simply because of where life has taken me. Except for one long-ago exception, my experiences with black people have all been positive.

I have learned from personal experience that judging others by their physical characteristics leads me into foolish mistakes at best, and at worst deprives me of opportunities to be enriched by other people. I have tried to overcome the human failing of making snap judgments about people based on what they look like; instead, I try to learn more about the individual.

It is very difficult for me to communicate with anyone solely as a member of a group—an African-American, and Asian, a feminist, someone who has a disability, or a militant advocate of any particular cause. It isn’t that I oppose their calls for change, but I don’t like to be judged by someone else’s sense of commitment to a cause, whatever it may be. Sometimes there is an implied challenge: Either you respond to this exactly as I do, or you’re the enemy.

Often I have been approached by ardent activists for worthy causes whose invitation to discussion goes something like this: “We need to talk about this problem—but if you can’t agree from the beginning that I am completely right on certain points and you are all wrong, I say you’re not serious about helping.” That doesn’t put us on equal ground.

If it would help to heal the ugly racial divide in this country, I would be glad to sit down with anyone and discuss the differences in our lives because we are of different races. No doubt I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’m willing.

But what I would prefer to talk about is how we are alike as children of God. How would the world change if we could focus more on our spiritual kinship with each other and with Him?

 

 

 

 

Race and Justice: What’s the Answer?

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I don’t know the answer. Why are we here again—another man dead needlessly, more violence and pain in the aftermath?

I lived through the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ‘60s, which were supposed to lead to our growing out of these problems. But that hasn’t happened.

Sixty years later, our country is still being convulsed by incidents related to the racial divide. Will we ever overcome this?

I remember one of my first up-close lessons in overt racism. I was 15, in a train station in West Texas one day, when I went to get a drink of water at the public fountain. Just as I bent over the fountain, I noticed a sign above it that said “Colored.” Across the room there was an identical fountain with a sign that said, “White.” What? We were supposed to drink from different fountains because our skin was a different shade? That was silly and irrational. I ignored the sign in front of me and drank.

Just one small incident? Yes–but at 15 it pushed me in the right direction. I may have been lucky that one of the local cowboys did not see me. Some of them took that racial divide very seriously. But I did not care. I had been taught differently.

Part of my family’s roots are deep in the old South. My mother’s mother was born in Louisiana in 1894 on what had been a slave plantation just 30 years earlier. Grandma and Grandpa freely used what we now politely call the “N word.” It was wrong, of course. Any kind of pejorative labeling of people is always wrong, and this word is especially ugly and damaging. It was something they had learned growing up in their time. But we can make a mistake when we judge people of the past by the standards of 2020. That kind of ugliness was not in their hearts.

My widowed mother and I lived with Grandma and Grandpa when I was a little boy because Mom had to work outside the home and she and my grandparents also ran a business together. When I was five, we were all in a car accident, and my mother and grandmother almost didn’t survive. Their recovery was difficult. A year or so later, Grandpa hired Rosa, an African American woman, to help Grandma around the house. I can remember complaining to Grandma once about Rosa, who had tattled on me to my mother. Grandma sat me down and gave me to understand in no uncertain terms that Rosa had my best interests at heart and I jolly well better treat her with the same respect I gave to any adult woman around me. Rosa, she told me, was a child of God just like me, and Rosa was precious to Him. Grandma had learned important truths about God’s love from an African American woman who helped rear her back on that old plantation in Louisiana. From that woman, Grandma gained a faith that her own mother was not able to share, and it sustained my grandmother for many years as she grew up. Later, Grandma shared it with me. I owe some of my early lessons in faith to a kind and generous black woman I never knew.

My grandfather, as a plumbing contractor, hired white, black, or Latino men, and if they gave him a good day’s work for their pay, he kept hiring them. He valued them for their contribution, not their skin color. I never heard him judge others by skin color. He spoke of them as human beings with problems and needs similar to his own.

By their behavior, my mother’s parents taught me more about the value of people, regardless of skin color, than any schoolteacher.

Once, Grandma and I had a talk about the Civil War and the end of slavery. The anger she felt about that conflict had to do with the way the people in the South were treated after the Civil War. Hypocritical northern conquerors, she said, were equally guilty of racism.

Current incidents indicate that racial problems are not confined to one section of the country.

Half a lifetime ago, I had the opportunity to travel throughout the South with a performing group of young Native Americans, Polynesians, and Latinos. Toward the end of their show, which featured music and dance from their own cultures, there was a moment in which a narrator made this point: We are not actually black or white, but we are all the multi-colored hues of Mother Earth. We are all children of the same God. And then the show closed with a song well-known to children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “I Am a Child of God.” That song never failed to move some in the audience to tears.

Twenty-five years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana on a work assignment. The people I met there were so friendly and kind that I forgot there was any difference in our skin color. They were simply my brothers and sisters in the faith. I saw African American families from the United States vacationing in Ghana much as I might visit the land of my ancestors in Europe. Though they undoubtedly enjoyed the culture in Ghana, those families didn’t seem more at home in Africa than I. One man I saw in the hotel restaurant kept calling back home to Detroit to check on how his business was doing. It struck me that even though my ancestors came from England and his from Africa, we were both natives of the same North American country.

It is a country in which we still need to learn to live together in peace.

In my lifetime, I have had a couple of friends who were policemen. They were fine men, dedicated to keeping peace in our community, and they were paid far too little for putting their lives on the line to do it. Unfortunately, there are police officers who are not like them. I can’t imagine either of those men ever kneeling on someone’s neck while he pleads, “I can’t breathe.” We need to find ways to weed out people who would do that, and any who do it need to answer for their crimes.

African Americans have every right to protest the ongoing depredation against people of color. I believe the rest of us need to be careful not to rush to judgment when protests go bad. Peaceful protestors may not be responsible for the incitement, and the violence might not be entirely race-related. News footage of rioting in my city seemed to show a lot of white faces—perhaps more than people of color. It would be interesting to know who those people were and what was their stake in confrontations with the police.

Yesterday I read a clear, compelling article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about what African Americans are feeling when they are driven to protest. As an individual, I wish I knew how to contribute to the resolution of racial conflict. I fear that because I enjoy “white privilege”—a term with which I am not comfortable, even though I recognize its truth—my contributions might not be welcome. But I am willing to try.

White people who automatically feel uncomfortable when they see people of color around them need to get over it, especially if they call themselves Christians and hope to get into heaven. In my faith we are taught that Christ “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . and all are alike unto God” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33).

Any of us who might get into heaven are likely to find that many of our neighbors there grew up on earth as people of color—African Americans, Polynesians, Hispanics, Asians. If we cannot greet them as brother and sisters, “alike unto God,” then we won’t be comfortable in heaven.

 

 

 

The Promise of New Life

Pasture 2020My15 DSC01759BLEvery spring, it seems, I photograph some of the same things as I walk around our home in rural Idaho, strolling down the lane to the pastures below this small farm town. My redundant photos are a celebration of new life, a way of praising God for the beautiful gifts He keeps on giving.

Even in times of pandemic, even in times of war or disaster, even in all the times of our personal trials, each day He gives us fresh beauty and new opportunities.

I even find some delight in the bountiful crop of bright yellow flowers dotting our lawn. (Just who was it that decided dandelions are weeds?)

New green 2020My15 DSC01783 BLThe old tree outside our back door here keeps teaching me lessons. I have written about it before. In the fall, it looks like it might be done for, like this might be its last gasp. And yet each spring the tree puts forth new blossoms and new leaves.

If the old tree can keep going, I can to, until the Lord says it’s enough.

Life is a brand new gift every morning when I get out of bed.

I am reminded that many people have not been able to enjoy that gift as long as I have.

My thoughts have been troubled these past few days by reports of tragedies: two beautiful little girls swept away from their parents in a flash flood and drowned; two young women, just starting in life, drowned during an outing at a lake; a boy accidentally shot by a younger sibling; a troubled 15-year-old who decided that the gift of life was not worth keeping. My heart aches for the families in mourning. I pray that the Lord has taken those young people to Himself. I pray that His mercy and grace may cover them and they will be able to enjoy new life with Him.

Spring is a token from God of something better, a reminder of His promise that someday, through the grace of His Son Jesus Christ, we will enjoy new life with Him if we live for it now.

I pray that even now, when statistically I have lived the greater part of my mortal life, I can endure in living for that new life with Him.