The Rev. Peter Wallace took part in an anti-racism workshop in Atlanta recently. Most of the leadership of the Episcopal Church have done this. But Peter had an experience leaving the building that afternoon that forced him to put his new insights to work much sooner than he expected.
He was approached in the parking lot by a homeless African-American man named Randall who needed to get across town quickly so that he would get a place to sleep and get off the street for the night. Peter offered to drive him. Along the way he heard the man’s story, and got a small glimpse into the daily challenges he faces.
Taking his passenger to the shelter, it turned out to be a dead-end. And it was more than a dead end. But something made Peter open up his wallet, and give the man everything he had.
Peter describes what happened:
“Randall was crying with grateful joy. ‘No one will ever believe me when I tell them what you’ve done for me, Peter. I may never see you again, but I will never forget you,’ he said. ‘I should call you ‘Angel’! That may sound like a sissy name but it’s true.’
‘But you have blessed me too,’ I told him. ‘Just pass it on, Randall.’ He gave me a big hug after I dropped him off at the MARTA station, and he walked in to buy his transit pass.
Did he? I will probably never know. I think I am a pretty good judge of character, and Randall was as genuine a person as I have ever met. I didn’t get his phone number or contact information, and didn’t give him mine. Maybe we’ll run into each other someday, somewhere. But I don’t know what happened. What if he didn’t? That’s not up to me. I can only do what I can do, be sensitive to God’s holy nudges, and keep my eyes and heart open. But I do hope it all works out for him.
I have thought a lot about this encounter since. If I hadn’t been at the Anti-Racism Training that day, would I have been so quick to invite this unknown African American man into my car? And give him that much money? Was it the right thing to do? Was it just a way to soothe my white guilt? I’m still wrestling with these questions.”
Read the full account of Peter Wallace’s chance to put his training to work here.
Many of our Café readers are in leadership roles in the Episcopal Church. You’ve probably taken anti-racism training. Have you had similar experiences? Would act in the same way as Peter did? Or has your training changed your behavior in other ways? (My own experience taught me to recognize how I’ve benefited passively from other people’s racist actions, even if I wanted to imagine that I was otherwise free of guilt. Which I wasn’t.)