Between the Lines



One day last week I woke up very late. In my rush to get out of the house, I left my paperwork for the day on my kitchen table. Halfway to get my cup of coffee I realized it, but decided to go on to get my coffee, then circle back. As I was walking in to order my cup of joe, the lady in front of me dropped a $5 bill. I quickly reached to get it and tapped her shoulder. She was startled, but smiled as I said “you dropped this” and handed her money back to her.

After running back home to gather my things, I finally made it to the office. At lunch, I decided to run to the store to pick up a few things that I needed. Again, I was in a hurry, so I did the self checkout thing and bolted for the door. Unbeknownst to me, I overlooked a bottle of ibuprofen in my cart. The sales associate noticed it unbagged as I was leaving and stopped me. I was so embarrassed and apologized profusely. She politely said “not a problem” and walked me back to the register where I paid and left.

Later that afternoon, I had a home visit with an elderly client. I arrived at our scheduled time, but got no answer at the door. Concerned, I walked around the house to the back door and back around to the front. I even peeked into the window. The home was on a busy street so several folks saw me traipsing around as I tried to get ahold of her. Finally, she came to the door, explained she had dozed off, and we went on with our business.

Separately these things might not seem that unusual or even uncommon. However, the recent events in our nation, and even in our county, have made me rethink how I am perceived and how my daily activities might be staunchly different from those of someone who doesn’t look like me. I couldn’t help but think that me, a white adult male, might have been treated differently if I weren’t a white adult male.

The woman might have not been so friendly to my startling shoulder tap; the associate just might not have believed I had accidentally forgotten to scan my medicine; the passers-by might have seen me as a threat or an intruder while circling a stranger’s house. All of these scenarios might have been very different if I were a black adult male. I could also be wrong, but my gut tells me I’m not.

Collectively, we have to do better. From the head, to the heart, to the soul, to the street… we have to do better. In a very Christian county, we know exactly where to look for guidance on how to treat each other. It’s probably on your nightstand, right there in black and white.

-Richard Phillips