Tears and Laughter: How divided do we want our children to become?

If you missed the story that has been circulating about the five-year-old boys in Kentucky, maybe take the time to look it up. It will make your day. Jax and Reddy are classmates and best friends. Jax is white and Reddy is black. When it came time for Jax to get a haircut he wanted it cut just like Reddy’s. He thought this would be fun because then their friends and teacher wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Children are such gifts of innocence and sweetness. We enter the world with the capacity to love one another. I don’t know what happens. These two little boys are good examples to all of us, but what kind of example are we setting for them?

We spend a fair amount of money and strength trying to drown out the uncertainty of time held in tension against the certainty of death. We build houses like we will be here forever, but we won’t. None of us will be here all that long. It is temporary. Whether black or white or both, whether Hispanic or Latina or foreign or illegal, no matter who you know or love or what you do, accomplish, or achieve. Whether you are religious, or consider yourself more spiritual, or if you believe you want nothing to do with deity – life doesn’t last. Even if you are right and those you perceive as being on the other side are wrong, it won’t last. Not here in the earth school.

I will turn 45 in a couple of months. When I was growing up in Sandflat I never thought about turning 45. Even after moving to Chilton County, the only age I could see was 18. I thought 18 came with a freedom to live. At 45, it is natural to start thinking the opposite. I am still free to live, but most likely, I am also over half finished with my life too. And the persistent AARP isn’t doing me any favors sending reminders twice a month.

Having been born in 1972, George Wallace had just been shot. Race relations were tense. There were culture clashes all across the country, but not any more intensely than they are now. Back then, nobody in rural Marengo County knew much about what was happening elsewhere. They were just neighbors, black and white alike. If a family needed help, the community helped.

The Huckabee well was struck by lightning once. My granddaddy asked Mose Lofton, who lived down the road, if he could get water from his well until the repairs were complete. Mr. Loftin told him, “Mr. Mack, that water belongs to the Lord. You get all of it you want.” I heard Granddaddy repeat that over time to other neighbors when their wells would be out.

There was a habitual exchange of ripe tomatoes or peaches in their seasons – watermelons in the summer, pecans in the fall. There were pound cakes after funerals and homemade dumplings when babies were born. And it continues still, even now 45 years later. I send my son with bags of pears for my neighbor, and she sends her son with a bushel of purple hull peas.

Maybe an often overlooked secret of the Black Belt is that we care about one another, regardless of the history of this fertile land we share, individual circumstances, or political leanings. I think sometimes we just forget it feels better to get along than it does to feel our beliefs are right. I’m not saying we could fool our friends by looking alike the way Jax and Reddy do, but if judged on heart and spirit alone…couldn’t we at least try? Our children are watching us. How divided do we want them to become?

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.