Many times, mother didn’t hire a babysitter. She would often take my sister and me shopping.

On one of those trips as a small child to the old Goldsmith Department Store in downtown Memphis, I first discovered how connected we all are.

While Mom shopped, I went to get a drink of water. 

In those days in the 1950s, public water fountains were separate, one labeled “whites”; others “colored.”

On the way to the fountains, curiosity got the best of me. I looked behind them. Maybe some contraption that produced specialized water was there.

Then, I ran to mother. “Mom, Mom,” I said, pointing. “The water for both of these is from the same pipe?  What changes the water when it gets to the fountain?” That’s when I first learned that perceived racial division was what was projected on the outside. But there was a common source.

Fast forward to 1968 and the aftermath of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination.

Mother, who was amazing as a Southern woman of her generation who never had a problem with race, taught typing and shorthand in an all-black high school in inner-city Memphis.

After the King assassination, Mom was afraid. So afraid that although she was adverse to firearms, Dad bought Mom a tear gas gun to take to her school. Mom was scared, particularly after school officials installed emergency buttons on each teacher's desk in case immediate help was needed. 

She remained fearful.

Then, one rainy day, she picked up a group of African-American girls walking to school.

At first, they were afraid. They were fearful Mom indeed had a gun and was picking them up to shoot them. Their parents were afraid of what a white person might do to them.

Dialogue happened.

Mom discovered that the young girls were just as afraid of her and her race as she was of them and their race.

In the weeks that followed, Mom regularly picked up those girls, and others, and gave them a ride to school. They developed a wonderful relationship.

She discovered, as I did years before, that despite differences from the outside, we all are sustained from the same pipeline.

David McCollum
Sports Columnist, Conway Log Cabin Democrat
Second Baptist Church, Little Rock
Resides in North Little Rock