Saturday, March 21, 2009
Continuing my story from yesterday - My dad was not a racist, but was uneducated in relation to race. He carried images in his head that he obtained from living life in a white community in rural Iowa. He had not been exposed to people who were different from him. He also had the images that television and newspaper put in his head that white people should fear black people.
Jump into the future (from 1969) about 18 years. I was living in Minneapolis, MN and working for an urban ministry, Midwest Challenge, in the their book division and I had an assignment to interview Ted Jefferson. Ted had lived a life of crime culminating in a first degree murder conviction. He had recently written a book outlining his life story and how God had intervened in his life. He had been paroled (unheard of for a first degree murder conviction) and was running a half-way house in North Minneapolis.
On the weekend I had scheduled the interview my folks came to town to visit and I asked my dad if he'd like to come along. He agreed. As we were nearing our destination it was apparent to my dad that we were driving in an African-American part of town. As we entered the house where the interview was going to be, my dad became visibly nervous. We sat down at a kitchen table with several African American males who had all been convicted of some felony. By this time I imagine my dad was about to pee his pants. I imagine he thought that we were going to be beaten, robbed and killed at any moment. And, then... Ted walked in...
Ted was a compassionate Christian filled with love and concern for his fellow man and was dedicated to helping others. He quickly made my dad feel at ease as he shared his story and his vision. He gave my dad an autographed copy of his latest book and I know it had a lasting impression on him as he spoke of it often. I can see my dad back in Iowa Falls at the morning coffee club telling the others about how he met this "bad dude" in Minneapolis and lived to tell the story.
My dad has been gone nearly 11 years and I regret we did not visit more. Ted has since passed on and perhaps he, my dad and Bob Tate are all having a good time in heaven - singing and telling stories. It's a pleasant thought for me.