Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

It’s never too late to get on the bus

10/5/2018

I felt my phone vibrate, alerting me that I was receiving an incoming call. On the other end of the line, a voice gently said, “Bishop, where are you? We are all supposed to be on the bus.”

I glanced at the time on the clock and I was twenty minutes late.

I hurried to the bus, boarded to the amusement (and perhaps annoyance) of the people. They were all in their seats. I had let time get away from me. From that time forward, someone had to ask the question, “Is the bishop on the bus?”

I am not sure I have yet recovered from my lapse in time awareness. I was part of a group of people from the Oklahoma Conference who responded to the invitation to “Get on the Bus” and go to Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee to visit historic sites commemorating the struggle for Civil Rights.

In Little Rock, we visited sites associated with the Arkansas Nine, nine African American teenagers who broke the barrier of desegregation in that city. I marvel at the courage of the teenagers and their parents. I am equally appalled at the actions of the whites who opposed them.  

But in Memphis, I was late getting on the bus leaving the Lorraine Hotel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The experience plunged me deep into thought, which held me captive for the duration of the trip.

The museum contains an excellent chronical of the civil rights movement. With each step through the exhibits, I had a growing awareness of how sheltered I was from the issues of the day, how much Black Americans suffered, and pondered how anyone could have acted in such a manner against other people.

The struggle for Civil Rights was and is a struggle for human value and dignity. It is a struggle to be acknowledged as a person of sacred worth. It is a struggle that continues today.

I had known I did not have much time when I left the Lorraine Hotel to cross the street to continue my tour of the National Civil Rights Museum. I pondered deeply the upstairs room that Dr. King’s killer had occupied. Standing mere feet from where the killer had stood, I fixed my eyes on the balcony of the second story where Dr. King had stood. I wondered, “why?”

As I turned away, I saw an exhibit that informed me that Dr. King’s family had only one question: “why?” As my phone jarred me back to the present, that question remained.

I quickly made my way to the bus, a little embarrassed that I had been so careless and inconsiderate of everyone else on the tour.

So, I write this article as a sheepish confession that I almost missed the bus. However, it is never too late to get on the bus that treats people as children of God.


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