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All God's Children

His name was Carter Peabody* . It has been well over 50 years and I still remember his name. We never met but he is a part of my history, and is an inspirational and hopeful part of my future.

Journey back with me to the 1960's: school integration, while no longer banned by law, was not something that had happened in my small southern hometown - you went to school in your neighborhood, and the neighborhood I lived in was completely white.

I must have been in 4th or 5th grade when a letter was sent to all the parents of the elementary school I attended. A black family was moving into the community, and their child Carter would be attending our school. Parents were asked to tell their children to please welcome the new student and make him feel at home. I received this information as an interesting event - certainly nothing to be upset or worried about, and my parents did not act as though it were a big deal either.

But … before Carter's first day, another letter came out. He would not be coming to our school: there had been a fire at the family's home and they were moving away. I think I was mildly disappointed that we would not have Carter in our midst, but accepted the news and explanation at face value and went on with my schooling. Gradually - as integration and bussing became more widespread, I did have black classmates, some of whom I became good friends with - but I never completely forgot that missed opportunity to meet Carter Peabody and be classmates with him.

I hadn't thought about Carter Peabody and his family for years. Then at some point in 2020, during reading for my Racial Healing Circle it struck me like a thunderbolt. Maybe that fire was set on purpose to keep this child out of my school, to drive this family away, to send a message: you are not welcome here. I was stunned that I had never considered that possibility, and crushed to think that this might have been the case. There is no one I can think of to ask if they remember the letters, and if they knew something more about what happened. I so want someone to tell me that this family didn't leave our community because of arson, fear and hurt. I will never know the truth of that moment - but I know well the truth of this moment.

I know that people are still feared and distrusted - simply for the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation, or their different abilities, or their religion.I know that I have privilege (unearned, unasked for, and undeserved) simply because I was born white, cisgender, and fully-abled.I am part of the All God's Children Ministry because I want to listen, read, and learn, and to take action.I will with God's help.

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