Black History Month causes me to remember Howard Thurman, author, civil rights leader, theologian, philosopher, and the first African American professor and dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University.
Thurman was raised by his grandmother, a former slave, in segregated Daytona, Florida. Schools went only to the seventh grade, so Thurman’s family scraped together enough money to send him to high school in Jacksonville.
At the train station, Thurman was told he had to pay extra to send his baggage. Buying the ticket had left him destitute; he had no more to ship his trunk. Penniless, the boy sat down on the steps and began to cry.
Then, a stranger dressed in overalls walked by and paid the charges. The man didn’t introduce himself, and Thurman never learned his name.
When Thurman wrote his autobiography, he dedicated it “to the stranger in the railroad station in Daytona Beach who restored my broken dream 65 years ago.”
Thurman was a shy man who didn’t lead marches or give dramatic speeches. But he was full of big ideas that changed the world.
He pioneered a form of spiritual activism that blended contemplation with confrontation. He forged a connection between Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that gave wings to the civil rights movement.
Thurman was asked how he survived beatings, brutality, hate and discrimination growing up, yet remained a beacon of light and force for good in the world. He smiled and said, “My momma told me every single day growing up I was a beloved child of God … and I believed her.”
I wonder, what do you believe about yourself? Do you remember you are a beloved child of God?
Imagine if you lived into the truth that you are God’s beloved. Imagine how the world would change if we saw and treated everyone — regardless of what they looked like, what they believed, who they loved, or what country they’re from — as God’s beloved.
When we deeply understand that we are created in the image of God’s goodness — that we are God’s beloved — we can’t help but reflect that goodness in the world.
Write the word beloved where you can see it throughout the day and let the word permeate everything you say and do. When you have a deep awareness that you are beloved, you see and treat others as beloved … and that changes everything.
Rev. Dr. Tamara Francis Wilden is a United Methodist pastor and serves as a chaplain with OhioHealth.