Sunday, June 28, 2020
Sunday Afternoon Tea - Learning from history and sharing hospitality
If one were to take the more scenic route to my house, they would pass a marker that reminds those who stop and read that this area was one of the paths of the Trail of Death, a northern version of the more famous Trail of Tears that began in the Southeastern United States. I shudder to think that not too far from where I now sit, Native American families were taken off their land and forced to walk to their new "home" in Kansas.
When I was a child, we would take a picnic to a creek near where a major Indian battle took place. We children would run around the statue of the war hero who fought and won that battle. One could search for and find arrowheads at the bottom of the creek at that time. Even as a child, I knew blood had been shed on that ground and thought it a special place.
We were taught who were the good guys and who were the bad guys and the world seemed easy to understand. Then I learned more about the Native Americans who were here long before my generation was born. I learned more about the Native American heroes in that battle and how it was the spark that led to other battles.
I learned that people I admire greatly like Jonathan and Sarah Edwards loved the native people of Massachusetts and chose to minister at a remote mission field to the Native people after he was fired from the church he had preached his entire adult life.
Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of atrocities done by evil men on both sides. There were Indian raiders who slaughtered innocent families and even their own people feared them. However, there were European settlers who only considered Natives to be savages and did the same to their families. It is human nature not to trust those different than us.
I came to change my view of the native peoples of my land, not because they rioted in the streets or brought statues down or looted the places that sold big screen TVs. The statue of the war hero remains today as it did when I was a child, only now it reminds me of the whole story of that era in our history.
No, what changed my view was my own study of history.
Not a rewritten history and certainly not a whitewashed history. No, I read books and watched documentaries on what really happened so that hopefully... prayerfully... history does not repeat itself. I have found that the truth tends to float to the top in the story that becomes history after the passage of time.
Condoleezza Rice has been quoted as stating that slavery was America's birth defect. I thought that an excellent way of putting it. I would say that what was done by early settlers to the native people was also a birth defect of a young America. Although people treating other people badly has happened since the Fall in Eden.
Philosopher George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes".
We need to learn from the mistakes not only of our own past but the errors of past generations. It seems to many of us that the crazy people are in charge of the asylum. It doesn't matter that some of the statues brought down were people on the side of freeing the slaves, in a society where chaos reigns... common sense is out the window.
I know it seems like the problems of today's world are far beyond what one person can do to help, except possibly to pray. But there is something we can all do. That which has been done since the beginning days of the Church. We care for the people God places on our path.
There are those few, of course, that God chooses to affect the entire world but most of us are called to our everyday world in which we plant flowers and bake bread and chop vegetables and make salads and stir stews and once in awhile try our hand at making a homemade peach pie or perhaps a chocolate cake.
We can set a table for two or a crowd. We can fill the coffeepot with water and fresh grounds or put the kettle on for a pot of tea. Hospitality is the call of every person who calls Christ Savior and Lord. God may not have called most of us to change the world but He did call us to be salt and light in our circle of contacts.
I know there are so many faces of evil in the world today. The images come at us 24/7 from various news platforms. It is easy to feel like the world is falling apart. Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. What God asks of us is that we be His hands where we live. We are to show His compassion to those who are in desperate need of peace.
On one hand, we can learn more about racism and how brave people have worked to overcome it on a national platform and in their own life. I highly recommend Ben Carson's book called Gifted Hands and Condoleezza Rice's book called A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me. Both tell the story in these books of overcoming racism in their young years.
One of my favorite movies is called Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's long fight against slavery in England. It's a good family movie, except for the most sensitive of young children, the story is told in such a way to give glory to God and show what a small group of people who do not give up can do to change the world.
However, on the other hand, for most of us, we can show hospitality and get to know those different than us. I loved having my kid's college friends over from the University. Of course, most were from various Christian organizations but there were those that didn't know Him. There were so many nationalities represented.
Sometimes all we can do is be nice to another person and pray for them as they come to mind. Before the age of social distancing, one of the best ways to get to know someone different than us was to meet for coffee at a central location. We can conquer racism one new friend at a time.
Sometimes I wonder how many of us, as we grew older, realized we were not going to change the world so we didn't even try to change our neighborhood for Christ. I think of past generations who understood more the concept of community, where fellowship was simply a piece of pie and a cup of coffee in one's kitchen. It seems today we think we need to put on a lavish spread for company. Maybe it is time to get back to the old ways. It's a lot to ponder.
In the meantime, I still slow down on that country road on the way home (there are rarely other cars) and look at the marker placed there for us to remember. Not only the Trail of Death but the many injustices that have taken place in this fallen of worlds. It will never be perfect here but we can be a light in the darkness as we walk our own path.
Mentioned in this Blog Post
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson... here.
A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice... here.
Amazing Grace on Amazon Video... here.
Amazing Grace DVD... here (third party).
Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.