6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Ruby was born in the Delta region of the Mississippi River in 1954. Also in 1954 the Supreme Court heard a case called Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. After the arguments were made, the high court ruled that separate but equal education for blacks and whites while it was separate it was in no way equal. Segregation ended officially the year Ruby was born, but in reality, it hung for a long time thereafter.

Six years later Ruby’s mother got her ready for her first day of school. She wore a white dress and a white bonnet on her head. She had all the fears and hopes of any first grader, plus the weight of the State of Louisiana on her shoulders. At only six years old Ruby was escorted to her first day of school by seventy-five well-armed federal marshals.

When she had enrolled, all the other students withdrew, but their parents were there to greet Ruby that first day of school. Hundreds of people lined the sidewalk leading to the school entrance. As she passed, they screamed hateful words, spiteful slurs, and racial slang’s. Not only did all the other students withdraw, but the almost every teacher resigned in protest.

But one teacher was coerced into service. She was one year away from retirement and was forced to report to work by the threat of losing her pension. The judge who had ordered that Ruby be allowed to attend the school had also assigned a therapist to monitor Ruby’s mental health and that of her family.

One day the teacher called the therapist to report a deviation in Ruby’s daily routine. From the school window the teacher saw Ruby stop and apparently talk to the angry crowd that continued to greet her each day. She had asked Ruby about the confrontation, but Ruby said she hadn’t spoken to the crowd. The therapist agreed to visit with her that evening.

"Your teacher tells me that she saw you stop in front of the school today and talk to those people."

"No sir," Ruby said. "I didn’t talk to them."

"Did you stop in front of them?" the therapist asked. "Yes sir, but I didn’t talk to them. I prayed for them."

"You prayed for them. Why did you pray for them, Ruby?"

She answered the question with a question. "Don’t you think they need praying for?"

"I suppose,” the therapist replied “But why were you praying for them?"

"Because I’m the one who hears what they are saying."

The therapist tried a different approach. "What did you pray?"

"I prayed, ’Dear God, please forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.”

The therapist, who has written this story down for prosperity recalled the incident. "Her words were strangely familiar to me," he said, "as if I’d heard them somewhere before."

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