Norman Rockwell’s historic 1964 painting, The Problem We All Live With, serves as an important-yet-disturbing reminder of the enduring legacy of Ruby Bridges. At age six, Ruby integrated an elementary school in New Orleans, although calling it integration is a little misleading since white parents pulled their children from class and white teachers refused to teach little Ruby. Thankfully, one brave teacher from Boston agreed to step up, and for a full year Ruby experienced the ultimate in student-teacher ratio.
She also experienced pure hatred. Rockwell captures the hatred in his painting, but Ruby experienced it firsthand. The screams, threats, and nastiness came hot and heavy, directed at a sweet little girl simply trying to go to school.
At her mother’s suggestion, Ruby did something special as federal marshals escorted her to and from school each day: little Ruby prayed for forgiveness for the people screaming at her.
Remind me, what is it that I have to be upset about today?
I can think of two things that I have in common with Ruby Bridges: first, both she and I lost our homes in Hurricane Katrina; and second, we were both at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures on Wednesday evening this week, although I was a bald head in a vast crowd while she shared her captivating story from center stage.
Ms. Bridges said that she loved the first grade because of her wonderful teacher. She said that her teacher looked like the screaming crowd—but she was different—and that the lesson she learned that historic first-grade year is that you cannot simply look at a person and make a right judgment.
Embracing that lesson is the third thing I want to have in common with Ruby Bridges.