1064) “It’s Not Easy”

Ruby Bridges, 1960

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     Robert Coles, the distinguished child psychiatrist, went to New Orleans in the 1960s to help black children living with the trauma of trying to integrate their schools.  Ruby Bridges was the first black child to help desegregate her public school in New Orleans.  Every day Ruby would walk to school guarded by Federal Marshals who escorted her through an angry mob of protesters, some of whom were yelling terrible things at little Ruby.  Dr. Coles was quite concerned about Ruby and what effect all this hatred would have on the rest of her life.  He knew, as a psychiatrist, that she was probably having trouble eating, sleeping, and carrying on her normal routine.  Every day he interviewed her and would ask, “Ruby, how are you sleeping?”  She would reply, “I’m sleeping just fine.”  Coles would pursue the question, “Then I bet you aren’t eating too well, are you?”  And Ruby would answer, “I’m eating just fine.”  Every day he would ask the questions and she responded in the same say:  “I’m just fine.”

     Finally, one day he heard Ruby’s teacher say that she had noticed that Ruby seemed to be talking to herself when she walked through the angry mob every morning.  Dr. Coles asked her what she was saying as she walked through that line of angry people.  She told him she said, “Please be with me God, and be with these people too.  Forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”

     What strength Ruby received from prayer and forgiveness!  God was with her, and she was ‘just fine.’

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Ruby Bridges (quoted by Robert Coles in Walker Percy: An American Search):

I ask myself if it’s worth it.  I ask myself why God made people like those white people who shout all those bad words at me.  I ask myself if it makes any sense, to keep walking by them, and trying to smile at them, and trying to be polite, when I’d like to see them all dead.  I would!  But the minister says we are tested; that’s why we’re put here in the world, to be tested.  So, I guess I ought to thank those white folks.  They’re testing me.

I try to talk to God when I walk past them.  I ask Him to please help me do what is right and to know what I should do.  It’s not easy, knowing what to do.  I’ll bet you can find some people who have grown old, and they still aren’t sure how you’re supposed to live your life.  They’re still wondering what’s it all about.  My grandfather is one of those people.  That’s what he always asks:  ‘What’s it all about?’  He takes his whiskey when he comes home from his job, and he sits on the porch in his rocking chair.  While he’s sitting and he’s sipping, he does his asking.  He asks God a lot of questions, and he asks my momma and my poppa, and he asks himself, and he’ll even ask me.

The other day, he said to me, ‘Little one, why do you do like you do?’  I knew what he was asking.  I told him that I’d heard the Sunday School teacher tell us that we’re here to do the best we can to be good.  I try to be good.  When those white people tell me they’ll kill me, I bite my lip.  I don’t answer them back the way they talk to me.  I try to pray for them.  I don’t really want to, but I do.  I wonder, sometimes, if they ever stop and ask themselves why they are put here in this world.  If we don’t ask why we’re here, we’re lost in the woods.

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The Problem We All Live With, by Norman Rockwell, depicting Ruby Bridges going to school

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Ruby Bridges Hall (1954- ) tells her story at:

http://www.rubybridges.com/story.htm

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Luke 23:34a  —  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Colossians 3:12-13  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11  —   Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.

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Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

–Lord’s Prayer