Grayburg: that was the little community where his grandparents lived, and he loved going to visit.
His grandparents lived in a small white house on two lots, with gigantic sycamore trees in the front yard. He loved everything about the place, and he especially loved that during the summer, he could come and stay for a week, and have his grandparents all to himself.
His grandmother’s name was Sallie, but he called her “Sa-Sa,” and the name stuck.
There was lots to love about going to Grayburg. The boy loved walking down to see Sa Sa’s sister, Aunt Bib. Her name was Vivian, but everyone called her Bib. Aunt Bib was cool. She taught him how to play dominoes, and how to do leathercraft. And when he spent the night, she would let him get up in her bed, and they would put the covers up over their heads, and hold flashlights, and she would tell great stories. Her version of “Three Little Pigs” was the best. And there was another sister, too – Aunt Hazel. So Grayburg had lots of family connections.
Sa-Sa was a great cook, and his favorite was her chicken and dumplings. The flavor was amazing, as was the smell going through the entire house. And the hissing and clattering of the pressure cooker while the chicken was cooking.
There was a lady who came and helped Sa-Sa with her cooking and cleaning, an old black lady somewhere between the ages of 60 and 200. Her name was Daisy, and she was wrinkled and thin with wiry gray hair, but she had a smile that could light up a room. Daisy had been Sa-Sa’s friend and helper as far back as the boy could remember. Farther than that – his mother said that Daisy had been a fixture in their home for almost as long as SHE could remember.
Of course, one of his favorite parts about Grayburg was the trains. Sa-Sa’s house was only a block or so away from the Missouri Pacific mainline between Houston and Beaumont. There was a long siding there, where trains would stop and pass each other, and a small yard where pulpwood was loaded onto flat cars. And there was a small station there. It was a sort of creamy yellow-beige color, with dark brown trim. There was a freight deck on one side, and the station had a bay window where the agent could look down and see trains without having to leave his desk.
Inside, the station was painted in a tired ivory color with pews around the walls for seating. There was a potbellied stove for the occasional cold days, and a ticket window with an iron grill. And there was a single small restroom in the corner. Over the restroom door was a small metal sign.
One time, the boy asked his dad about it. “But, if Daisy were here and needed to go, where would she go?” he asked in all childhood innocence. As it turns out, there was an outhouse out in the weeds and mud at the edge of the railyard. His dad pointed out to the old privy and said, “I guess she would have to go there.” The boy just looked at his dad. He didn’t say anything else. But all he could think about was how unfair that was.
This story took place in about 1961. And it’s a true story, because I was that little boy. And what I remember was how many people seemed content with things as they were and seemed not to notice unfairness.
My point is this – Jim Crow segregation laws are long since a thing of the past, thank God. But unfairness and prejudice are still with us. In society. In our churches. And in our hearts. Jesus told us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Surely the first place it must come is to our own hearts and our own lives. And that means being willing to notice unfairness wherever it is. And to work to change it.
No matter how uncomfortable it might make us to admit that it still exists.