Every once in awhile, I get the chance to see a glimpse of my past through the eyes of someone else. Sometimes, I receive messages from longtime friends and past acquaintances who remind me of times gone by-some good; some bad. I tend to throw the bad memories into my mental box labeled, “Don’t Ever Open Again”. But the good memories give me hope. They let me know that I wasn’t a total schmuck before God saved me.
Today was one of those good-memory days.
When I was a freshman in college, at Western Michigan University, I developed some pretty awesome relationships with friends of different backgrounds. In fact, some of those relationships still remain today. Doug, Dante, Al, D-Pounce, Jeff and Reddick took me into their little group of King High School/ Flintstone bandits as if I had always belonged. A band of brothers. And then there was my crazy, naive and genuinely good-hearted suitemate: Andy.
Andy was hilarious. He was the kind of white guy who obviously came from a town where black folks were either absent or shunned, but Andy didn’t allow fear of the unknown to stunt his growth. No sir. This guy used his natural curiosity to befriend us and learn about our culture. I can remember our talks as if they happened yesterday.
Andy would ask questions with a look of childlike wonderment in his eyes. He never once offended me with his open and honest questions. Rather, I actually saw him as someone who wanted to learn who I was; not just Ennis Smith from Ecorse, Michigan, but Ennis Smith-the black man, from Ecorse, Michigan.
Andy asked about my background. He asked why the black race seemed to be portrayed in a negative light through the media of the day. He wanted to know thoughts on our choices in dating. He wanted to know what it was to be as close to “black” as he could possibly get.
Now, I remember a few of my friends blowing over his questions and curiosities as foolishness, maybe even stupidity. But, I saw what they didn’t see. He was just a guy who didn’t look like us, but who actually wanted to understand our culture. Andy was about as non-racist as you can get. He was my friend, and we had good laughs and great conversation.
I was 18 when we met. Somewhere between 19 and 21 – I honestly don’t remember, because the alcohol changed me – I lost touch with my friend. Today, I got an unexpected and pleasant surprise via Twitter. My old friend had tracked me down. Imagine my surprise in finding out that he was not only a fellow writer, but a writer who regularly takes on the subject of race and relationships as an anti-racism activist!
Andy wrote a post in which he referred back to one of our many conversations on race. It completely blew my mind that our talks would have such a lasting impact on someone! For some reason, he felt the need to apologize for any uncompassionate (my words, not his) things he made have said. But, in all honesty, I remember that one particular conversation being awesome.
And there it is folks: God’s work transcending time. Even before I was straight with the Lord, he was working on a friend,and I, refining us both; shaping us into the people we would someday become. I wonder if my friend would be proud of the man I’ve become today? I sure am proud of what he’s doing with his life, using his voice, spoken and written, to attack one of Satan’s greatest tools: racism. I am 42 today. And it would seem that my Lord saw fit to bring my old friend back into my life. My yesterday took a pause, and decided to pick up again, now.
Be kind to one another, friends. You never know when something you might say or do might change the course of another’s life. You can never tell if your actions might speak life into a relationship, or strife between two people.