Twenty-five years ago I was privileged to serve as brand new transitional deacon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Altadena — and to hear this story told by one of the senior members of the parish: Dolores Kisting. It is a story I’ve carried in my heart all these years and one that still “preaches” as we continue to live into God’s call to be “one in the Spirit” aligned with God’s values of love, justice and compassion. Dolores wrote:
“I was raised in Ohio in a deeply religious Roman Catholic family where bias against those of different faith or color was not tolerated. Early incidents in my childhood had impressed upon us the fact that my father would not tolerate such behavior among us in his household. He often told us “We are all God’s children. God doesn’t discriminate … neither do we.”
Shortly after the start of World War II our local parish sponsored a Japanese-American family deported from California. Their two children – Joe and Amy — were with our family until 1947. To me they were just another younger brother and sister to put up with … but to my sister Dorothy, Amy was her best and closest friend. They were inseparable. And it came to pass that a classmate of theirs was having a birthday party … and everyone from the class was invited … except Amy.
When Dorothy protested, my mother was forced to bring her face-to-face the harsh reality from which our family life had shielded her: there were places that Amy wasn’t welcome because she was different than we were. Because she was Japanese.
Dorothy’s response was to refuse to attend the party herself. Her explanation? “If Amy’s not invited, I’m not invited.”
I was so proud of my little sister … proud to be part of a family that took its stand against bigotry and bias. And I’ve always tried to go through life remembering the lesson my little sister taught me … and remembering all those “Amys” who aren’t invited to places I’m included without a second thought … and to remember that until we’re all invited everywhere, God isn’t finished with any of us yet.”
Today’s post is a reflection from Susan Russell, Canon for Engagement Across Difference in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles … and former deacon at St. Mark’s Altadena.