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Ugly words and wounded hearts

Growing up I attended schools that were blended well with various ethnicities. I grew up in a family that emphasized character and not color. I wasn’t swimming in a sea of white people, but rather my circle of influence and friends were all different beautiful shades. It wasn’t until high school that I experienced my first real personal encounter with racism that could have shaped me in to a different person if it had not been for my parents.

It wasn’t every day, but it was often enough that I was pushed, smacked in the back of the head, or shamed in front of others as the girls called out, “Stupid little rich white girl.” Smack. Where did that come from? And honestly, I didn’t know. I couldn’t figure out why these girls didn’t like me. Because I was white? That didn’t make any sense to me at all.

I frequently was the girl who waited on the edge of my seat to hear that last period bell so I could grab my stuff from my locker and high tail it to safety; the big yellow bus. Whether or not they have ever intended to follow out with their demands I will never know, but being told I was going to get the snot beat out of me after school for being the “stupid little rich white girl,” gave me the extra incentive to be the fastest person to the school bus.

Rich? Why do they think I’m rich? Apparently they don’t realize the refrigerator in our humble home is often empty, people have dropped food off at our doorstep, a kind person once put a back pack full of school supplies in our mailbox because we had nothing to start the school year with, my shoes were frequently being held together by a lovely shade of silver duct tape, my family for a period of time had to rely on welfare assistance while they busted their bottoms to find work and pay the bills, we’ve counted and rolled pennies to buy a loaf of bread, I could go on. Material wealth, we were FAR from it. Our struggles were real. But as my mama always said, “Someone else’s struggles are even more real. There’s always someone else who is going through an even harder time. Be thankful.”

At times I feared going to school. I certainly didn’t want to get beat up and be the laughing joke of the school. I started to become angry and resentful towards those girls. They singled me out because I was white. There was no other reason. I never did anything to them and didn’t even know most of their names. I’m proud and honored that I was raised by a Christian family that taught me biblical principles that helped mold and shape me in to the person I am today. My parents taught me not to be angry and not to have hate towards the girls and certainly not to feel bitterness towards them because they were a different color than me. I remember my mother telling me, “You don’t know what those girls are going through in their own home to make them so angry and bitter. You don’t know what their parents are doing or teaching them. The best thing to do is to kill them with kindness and show them there is a better way.”

My brother and I weren’t raised to hate. We were raised to love, to be generous and kind, and to not judge others based on the color of their skin. My dad knew I was struggling and he knew I was afraid. He taught me to pray for them. So I gave it a try. It wasn’t long after that they approached me again standing in the lunch line. Smack – right to the back of the head. “There’s the stupid – beep beep beepity beep – rich white girl.” Ok Lord, I’m really trying here not to be angry and God knows what it took for me to actually pray for them – what is going on!?!?! Up walks one of my friends, who happened to be African American himself. He put his arm around my shoulder and said to the girls, “Leave her alone, she’s alright.” That was it. My struggles were over. I was never threatened to have my face beaten off my head again. Do you know the relief I felt? God answered my prayer and He answered it through using another African American person to be the light to those African American girls. His mama raised him right. I wanted to hug him and his mama!

A few years ago my boys came home from school in a panic. My youngest, just recently adopted from Ukraine, barely spoke English had been beaten up on the playground at school. All I saw was a bloody lip and nose and this mama bear saw red. When I asked his brother what happened he said, “I don’t know mom. These boys came up to him punched him in the head and called him a @#$!@*% white boy.” My stomach sank. I hurt for my child. I was angry someone did that to him. And I recalled what it felt like to be threatened like that. I did what any mama bear would do, I marched in to that school to track down those boys and make sure I was getting the full story. The teacher explained that she saw what happened and their version of the story was correct. There was no rhyme or reason, just plain ol’ bullying. These boys were known for causing problems like this for other children. She also explained that the boys lived troubled lives. The had come from broken homes, abuse, and neglect. My heart sank again, but it was in compassion for those lost little boys who were lacking love and guidance at home. I wanted to whoop their bottoms for hurting my boys and other children and hug them at the same time because I knew they didn’t have a mama who was.

So here I am in a position now to teach my boys what my parents taught me. We talked. We reasoned. They vented. We got it all out. Then, we prayed. We prayed for friendship. We prayed the boys would be blessed. Sure enough, with a little time, they all became friends. Everyone moved on.

My boys were angry and they had reason to be. I had reason to be angry when I was being bullied. My parents had reason to be angry. I had reason to be angry when my boys were being bullied. That could have all played out a lot differently. We could have let hatred and anger fester in our hearts to create a big ol mess of ugliness. We chose to use our words towards and about others for life and not death. Provers 18:21 says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Hate is taught at home. It doesn’t matter what color fills your family genealogy. Hate grows freely to whoever will feed it. You are changing the pattern of your child’s thinking and reasoning process in the brain when you speak hate towards people. Literally, a scientific occurrence is happening in your child’s brain that is causing patterns to develop that if not course corrected will create generations of hate-filled, racially divided people. EVERY.SINGLE.WORD you speak is creating patterns. Be careful little mouth what you say.

One of the families that is in Ecuador serving with Bless An Orphan has a little 3 year old girl (pictured in the photo). She’s as cute a as a button. They often take her with the team when we distribute food to street children and impoverished families. She jumps right in with the other children and becomes one of them. There is no distinction between the color of their skin. She doesn’t see a problem and neither do they. It’s because her parents are teaching her not to judge others based on the color of their skin. Most importantly, they are teaching her to love others and show compassion and kindness in their lives.

If you have been teaching hate to your child, that can change. If your heart and mind has been full of hate, that can change too. First, you need to have a good talk with the Lord and repent for the evil in your heart and ask Him to clean up what has been made muddy. Then, it’s time to start doing the work to reprogram the brain. Just like God’s word tell us, our mind can be renewed. (Ephesians 4:23)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Some of the most beautiful stories of my life involve my love and passion working with children and people in need. My life has been touched by people of all colors and ethnicities. I spent two and a half years working to build orphan programs and feeding programs in Africa. We worked over a year in Haiti helping to bring relief to victims of the earthquake in 2010. We’ve provided relief and created children’s homes and programs all over this world and are still carrying the torch today. Poverty, despair, abuse, neglect, hunger, and disease are not discriminatory. They destroy millions of lives on this planet every day. Compassion, love, kindness and mercy shouldn’t be discriminatory either. We can touch millions of lives on this planet if we would all abide by these principles.

Teach your children love. Teach them to be kind. Teach them to be compassionate and show mercy to others. Your words are weapons or tools. Tools build. Weapons destroy. You decide how you’re going to use them.

Thank you to all the generous hearts that help fund this mission. Your love crosses the border of color, culture, and even other religions to bless those in great need and to serve them as Christ served.



About Author

Karissa Washburn
administratorKarissa is co-founder of Bless An Orphan International. She is living our her lifelong passion of rescuing children from neglect and abuse. She and her husband Marshall live with their three children in Cuenca, Ecuador.