Experiences Shape our Lives – By Guest Author Karen Barstow
Experiences shape our lives.
In trying to make reason or understand the chaotic hatred, rioting, and vandalism throughout
our nation this past week, I was reminded of one such life experience:
It was the late 1950’s and I was a junior in high school having a great time! I was a class leader;
academics were very easy; I was blessed with a lot of friends, and busy with choir
performances, where I was also the student director. Having grown up and been active in my
church, I also thought of myself as a good Christian. There were some students of color in our
school but generally, we ran in different groups except in the choir, band, and athletics.
A girl who sat behind me in choir HATED me for some reason which I did not understand.
She pulled the chair out from behind me causing me to crash to the floor breaking my tailbone.
She wrote names for me in lipstick on the girl’s bathroom mirror and dumped my books
frequently in the choir room. I had always tried to speak to her but was met with angry, cold
stares. Did I mention that she was a girl of color?
Angry and frustrated, I sat down with my father to discuss the issue. He listened carefully,
which he always did, and then asked me to go for a ride with him after first telling me to go look
in my bedroom, our living room, the front of our house. He drove me “across the tracks” to the
“other” side of town where modest houses were pretty run down, yards crammed with broken
down cars, lots of kids playing on crowded sidewalks.
I didn’t have the answers to Dad’s questions: Where does she live? What do you suppose her
life is like? Why do you think she dislikes you? When I asked him what I should do, he said
“well, what do the scriptures say? What would Jesus say? You need to answer this yourself.”
And so I prayed about it.
With the help of music teacher, Mr. Guthrie, we found some helping roles for her in the choir, moved
her seating beside me instead of behind, and asked her to teach the choir a warm-up song.
Guess what! She taught us a GOSPEL song! This girl who had been so mean to me was a
leader in her church youth choir. She became visible to those of us in our choir probably for
the first time. It was a humbling life experience about myself and who Christ wanted me to be.