I’m predisposed to like anything Chris Fabry writes. 1) He’s a West Virginian, and 2) He’s a fantastic writer. But putting my predilection aside, The Promise of Jesse Woods is a fantastic book.
I knew kids like Jesse when I was growing up–the kids so poor the poor kids looked down on them. Fabry’s book makes me want to travel back in time so I can befriend one girl in particular. She wasn’t always clean. Her clothes weren’t in style. Her family had a reputation for being the very least of these.
Recently, my second grade teacher posted a picture of our class on Facebook. There she is–smiling, looking ready to take on the world. That’s not how I remember her and it makes me realize I didn’t know a thing about her. And I certainly didn’t try to learn.
I did a little research and found that girl on Facebook. My initial thought was to reach out to her and tell her I’m sorry I wasn’t nicer when we were in second grade. But as I learned a little bit about her, I realized it probably wasn’t such a great idea after all.
I now know she was one of ten children. I know she’s married and appears to have children and maybe even grandchildren of her own. She looks good. She looks happy. Her clothes are in style.
Why in the world would I get in touch with her to say I was guilty of harboring prejudice toward her in second grade? Because a story by Chris Fabry reminded me that maybe I wasn’t quite as sweet as I like to remember?
The things is, I don’t have to look into my past to find people I’ve judged. Maybe what I should be focusing on is the people I encounter each day. The people I consciously or unconsciously label as the least. Maybe I should focus on how each and every one of them has a story and challenges and plans and dreams and disappointments.
Just like that girl in second grade.
And just like me.