Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Lesson about Burning Bridges

More than 20 years ago someone told me I should never burn the bridges I’ve crossed in life because I never know when I may have to make a U-turn and cross back over that same bridge.

I never gave that statement much thought back then but the older I got, I began to realize how true that statement really is. You never know whose path you may cross in life that can help you along the way. You never know who you may need to help you on your journey. It could very well be someone you’ve already come in contact with but if you’ve treated them badly, you shouldn’t expect them to offer you a lending hand if you need one.

That brings me to the story of a fellow baby boomer named Catherine Donnelly. Back in 1981, she began her freshman year at Princeton. This young, wide-eyed Georgia girl soon discovered her roommate was black. She told her mother, Alice Brown, who was horrified and demanded that her daughter be removed from that room. Catherine’s mother, who is now 71 years old, stormed down to the campus housing office and demanded that her daughter (Donnelly) be moved to another room. "I told them we weren't used to living with black people — Catherine is from the South," Brown said. Brown said she was raised to believe there should be no mixiing of the races in any way. She recalled hearing her grandfather, a sheriff in the North Carolina mountains, brag about running black visitors out of the county before nightfall. And Brown's parents held on to the n-word like a family heirloom.

Today Donnelly is living as a gay woman, which she says has made her far more aware of what it's like to be judged by a trait beyond your control. Meanwhile, her former roommate assumes her new role as the First Lady of the United States: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson-Obama.

9 comments:

Martha Giffen said...

Awesome post!!

Mitch said...

Nicely written, and of course I had to go read the full story before posting here. Yeah, what goes around does come around, doesn't it?

I am not Star Jones said...

Catherine Donnelly is the poster child for opportunistic behavior.

Betty Lynch said...

Awesome post! Thank you for sharing.

Amy Sherman said...

Loved the post. It's a great lesson for all of us.

Melodieann said...

I was raised to always treat everyone with respect because it was the way God wanted us to treat each other. Even if you can't do it just because it's the right thing to do, learn from this example! Treat everybody nicely. You never know under what circumstances you may meet them again!

Pam Archer said...

There is no excuse for ignorance! How soon prejudice is gone for good.

Eileen Williams said...

Absolutely amazing! How life and circumstance can totally turn and transform one's experiences and viewpoints. It's tragic that, as humans, so many of us seem to want to put others down. It happens in every country and every culture.
I believe that our Creator loves each and every one of us unconditionally. When will we ever learn that every soul and life is precious?
That's something very special about the Quaker religion. They address each other by using the terms, "Thee" and "Thou." This is their way of recognizing the God force in every human being.

Debra Stokes said...

. . . and I'll bet Michelle LaVaughn Robinson-Obama didn't even hold it against her . . .