But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16
When I was seven years old, I was sitting in the basement of a J.C. Penney’s store, waiting for my turn to place my feet under the x-ray machine to make sure my shoes fit correctly. My eyes wandered to the water fountains across the room. Above one was a sign that said “WHITE.” Above the other was a sign that said “COLORED.”
I became excited to think about drinking colored water. Was it just one color? No, I decided it was probably many colors, like a dancing rainbow. I just knew it would taste like a Kool-Aid soda. As soon as my turn was over at the x-ray machine, I slipped away from my mama, who was paying for the shoes.
As I turned on the faucet, I was disappointed to see that the “colored” water was just the same as the “white” water. It even tasted the same. About that time, my mom appeared and asked what I was doing. I explained how disappointed I was. “It’s not colored water at all!” She took my hand and we hurriedly left the store.
Later she explained that the signs were not about the water but about the people who could drink from the fountains. I had a hard time believing this. Why? My mother could not explain.
I learned quickly that colored water was not a treat, but a putdown. It made me very sad. It was the first time that I experienced prejudice in action.
Oh, that we could be like little children who, in their innocence, do not treat people differently because of color, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or economic status. Unfortunately, it does not take us long to learn the prejudices of our society. And the hardships that follow are much more than what water fountain we can use. I wonder about the barriers we still place in front of children who are different from us, and how this affects them and us for entire lifetimes.
We all are invited to the same fountain of water, the water of life. All lives matter and we are still trying to grasp this truth.
Prayer: Most gracious creator God, please guide us so that we will fully embrace how all lives are sacred. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.