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Sunday, October 13, 2013


I call one of my favorite people here at the nursing our Calling Bird. She is spunky and funny and sweet and we share a love of Jesus and hymns. Even today we sang "America, America, God shed His grace on thee!" at lunch.

Calling Bird is prone to loud, foul utterances when provoked. Her propensity to violent anger coupled with her deep love of the Lord and His grace is part of what I love about her. If I need living proof of God's love and grace, she is it.

But those angry words usually come out when she's giving voice to things that irritate all of us. It is an overblown response to a common irritant, something she might not have done before dementia set in.

It takes a lot for the Calling Bird to shock me. She did, though.

One day at lunch, she was exchanging barbs with one of the aides. Her final zing used the "N" word. If it makes any difference, the aide happened to be white.

That set me back on my heels. I spoke up immediately, telling her I didn't like it and reminding her of the reasons why. Sheepishly, she nodded her head, as if embarrassed.

The aide returned. He spoke to another employee. "You won't believe what she said."

The Calling Bird repeated her offensive remark--even louder than before. This time, at least two other people told her not to speak that way.

I see a certain amount of prejudice here. Seniors born before the baby boomers grew up in a time before the modern Civil Rights movement, into a former slave territory. The prejudice is soft-spoken. Why does so-and-so win so many Bingo games. That lady should sit at a table with those people.That kind of thing.

As a New Englander whose childhood hero was Martin Luther King, I rate myself fairly low on the scale of prejudice. Until a close friend pointed out an obviously prejudicial statement I made in one of my devotionals.

I described a former boss's materialistic attitude (he who has the most money is the most successful), contrasting it with what the Bible says. But in describing him, I called him "a New Age Jew" or something along those lines.

My friend said I was perpetuating a stereotype. "Would you saw a Baptist or a Catholic?"

Yes, I would.

But I thought about it. I wouldn't have said a Black or Asian or Latino or Italian. So I was making a critical remark against a specific race, as if his race made a difference in the attitude of his heart.

So the moral of my sad story is: racism pops up when we least expect it. When we aren't thinking about it all, not putting up the barriers our conscience has erected.

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