There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way… — Marvin Gaye
Today dawned with a sparkling blue sky and a brisk breeze scented with the freshness of new growth. It was my kind of day.
With no appointments to rush to, I decided to take care of some errands I have put off and put off and put off. I jumped in my pollen-and-schmutz-coated car and drove to my favorite people-watching spot, the car wash.
As I sat on a bench in the waiting area of this bustling urban car salon, I began to “overhear” a conversation the man seated near me was having on his phone. I tried to behave, I really did, but there was something about this conversation that drew me in.
I figured out he was talking to his son or daughter who is a senior in college, studying pre-med, and headed for medical school. He seemed to be either an attorney or a CEO of a different type of business and was offering his student offspring a chance to learn the job of Assistant Secretary (of a Board of Directors, I presumed).
His manner was at once warm and business-like. He was covering his plans for his enterprise and trying to make sure his child had every opportunity to learn during the summer.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t include this bit of information, but it’s critical to my narrative. The gentleman — and he is one in every sense of the word — is a middle-aged black man. I was explaining just yesterday, post-Freddie Gray and post-Baltimore unrest, to my Seminar on American Racism (at the senior center) that our society’s focus on crime and violence in the black community has done an injustice to the thousands of black family men who are stand-up guys who value their roles as father and husband above all else.
Yes, they exist. They most certainly do.
As the conversation wound down, Mr. Wonderful Black Father said something along these lines:
“You make me so proud. Your mother and I speak often of how lucky we are to be the parents of you and your brother. We won the kid lottery with you two. Your mother talks about it all the time, but I only say it once in a while. (He laughs). Everything you do brings honor to our family. I love you very much.”
With welling eyes, I stood up to avoid making a fool of myself. I fought off the urge I had to simply hug him, for that would have been weirdly inappropriate, given my eavesdropping and all. Instead I vowed to share this with all of you. Bless this man.
I felt light as air as I waltzed into the tire store after the car wash to have my car’s tires rotated. It took an entire hour and I didn’t even care. I sat and sipped their free beverage, patting myself on the back for having raised a man who will be just like this one. This, I know for sure.
Lezlie Bishop is a mixed race Midwesterner who has lived for long periods on both ends of the U.S. – San Francisco Bay Area and Atlanta. She retired from a 25-year career with AT&T at age 55, ran her own consulting business for a time, and now spends her days blogging and teaching a class on racism at her local senior center. She, along with three others, published a book in 2014 called “Talking to the Wall,” a dialogue-based discussion of race from both sides of the argument. Lezlie is from the post-WWII generation of Baby Boomers.