I was 17 when I met Emma and Crystal. I was in Oklahoma for my first year of college. Emma and Crystal worked at the same place as me. They were in high school. We became fast friends.
We lived close to the Arkansas line. I didn’t know the area. But the girls went over to Arkansas to go shopping for prom. I guess there was a better mall not far away. They were so excited to go prom shopping! They came back upset. The shoe store refused to sell them shoes.
That was the moment that this girl from Michigan realized that racism wasn’t quite as removed in the south as the history books in school had led me to believe. I offered to go shopping with the girls back to that shoe store. I was ready for a fight. But, they didn’t want to go back.
When I watch evil in the world, I think of the great leaders who led with strength and love. In the news now is the senseless death of a man. The evil in the man who did it and the lack of courage in those standing around who watched are center stage. Also in the news is the rage of the protestors attacking the innocent who wear the same uniform as the man in the video on my screen. Also in the news is the fear and defensive response of the innocent who wear the same uniform as the non-innocent. And it will go back and forth and back forth; the anger, the violence, and hurt, until someone takes a step back to think intentionally, instead of just reacting.
I watch and I think “evil cannot drive out evil, only love does that”. Yes, the man who committed the act should be held accountable, as well as those who stood by and watched. But attacking other innocent people is not the answer.
I think back to when I was in Oklahoma. I was ready to fight. Emma and Crystal did not want to fight. I was outraged that the history stories I read about was these sweet girls’ reality. I was reacting. Emma and Crystal had lived this scene before. They were intentionally thinking. It was one salesperson in a store; not the whole mall, and not every person even working in the store they were at. They filed a complaint with the store. They told their friends not to shop there. And they gave their business to a different shop with higher standards of their personnel.
My way would have made me feel better. It would have made me feel like I did something to fight this inequity. But it wouldn’t have changed anything. It would have gotten me kicked out of a store. It wouldn’t have helped my friends.
My friends were smart. They got results. I don’t know how far they went with their complaint because the college year ended and I went back home. But, I know when I left that my friends were being thoughtful in their fight to change their world for the better.
I am not speaking against the protests. I am speaking against the violence. There are ways to make the world a better place. There are things all of us can do. And it starts with thinking with logic, determination, and from love. We all have that within us.
Tonight I am thankful for a great example of how to change the world, years ago, by two teenage, high school girls. I don’t remember their last names. And I don’t know where they are now. But I pray whatever they are doing, it is something from their hearts, tapered by their thoughtful minds. That is how they could be changing the world. I know this because that is how they changed my world.