This past Fall I went to Washington, D.C. as a new member of the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race. As part of our introductory meeting to GCORR we toured Washington and spent some time of solace and reflection at the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a powerful moment, even more so as we also stopped and walked at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
I am honored to be a part of GCORR’s mission to reach more diverse people. This Sunday is Human Relations Day, Par. 263.1 in the 2012 Book of Discipline. It is one of our denomination’s 6 special Sundays with a church-wide offering, and the offerings are designated to help improve human relations. It’s no wonder that the day designated as Human Relations Day is scheduled to be on the Sunday before the observance of Dr. King’s birthday. Of course, it can be on any Sunday, but how appropriate it is to honor the work and ministry of such a healer of festered wounds and champion for a world that looks like the Kingdom of Heaven.
Studies of human DNA suggest that we have common origins. Some say we all came from an “Eve” source in Africa that migrated some 10,000 fold into Europe’s hinterlands and intermarried with other hominid life forms. Others say that we have a common ancestor of unknown origin but share Neanderthal attributes. Either way, the similarity in our DNA doesn’t diminish our individual uniqueness.
God loves diversity. Look at the myriad colors of birds, the duck-billed platypus, and the multitude of human personality and biological differences for evidence. An old Russian proverb says it well, “If I try to be like someone else, who will be like me?” We need to treasure our uniqueness, even those aspects of uniqueness that don’t always fit in. I saw this illustrated in a cartoon that showed the foreman of a jury at the door of the jury room giving the lunch order to the bailiff. You know the jury is in for a long time when you hear the order: “Eleven cheeseburgers and one hot dog. Eleven coffees and one hot chocolate. Eleven fruit pies and one bagel.” As much as we share in common, we all have different tastes.
A waitress was taking orders from a couple and their young son. She was one of the class of veteran waitresses who never show outright disrespect to their customers, but who frequently make it quite evident by their level stare that they fear no mortal, not even parents. She jotted on her order pad deliberately and silently as the father and mother gave their selections, down to what was to be substituted for what and which dressing changed to what sauce. When she finally turned to the boy, he began his order with a kind of fearful desperation.
“I want a hot dog…” he started to say. And both parents barked at once. “No hot dog!” Then the mother continued, “Bring him the Lyonnais potatoes and the beef, both vegetables, and a hard roll and…” The waitress wasn’t even listening to the mother. She said directly to the youngster, “What do you want on your hot dog?” He flashed an amazed smile. “Ketchup, lots of ketchup, and – and bring a glass of milk.”
“Coming up,” she said as she turned from the table, leaving behind her the stunned silence of utter parental dismay. The boy watched her go before he turned to his father and mother with astonished elation to say, “You know what? She thinks I’m real! She thinks I’m real!”
God feels the same way about each of us. None of us are overlooked or ignored. Each one of us is special and unique to God. We are real to God! That is an epiphany that you might need to hear today. The prophets and Jesus preached it, so did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s all do what we can to celebrate Human Relations Day!