“Martin Luther King Jr. had been dead 11 days. His assassination fresh on her mind, Harriet Glickman, a teacher raising three kids in suburban Los Angeles, sat down at her typewriter.
"Dear Mr. Schulz," she wrote, "since the death of Martin Luther King, I've been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence."
Mr. Schulz was Charles Schulz. Glickman thought the creator of the popular Peanuts comic strip could play a small part in promoting tolerance and interracial friendship by including a black character in his strip.
She sent off the letter, not expecting a reply.
Schulz did write back, to say he had considered her suggestion. But he worried that if he created such a character, black parents might think he was condescending to their families.
With Schulz's permission, Glickman asked two of her black friends to send him some ideas on how to make a black character relatable. A few weeks later, the cartoonist responded.
"You will be pleased to know that I have taken the first step in doing something about presenting a Negro child in the comic strip during the week of July 29," Schulz said. "I have drawn an episode which I think will please you." (Adapted from Morning Edition 11/6/15)
Just like that, Franklin was born. And on Friday the Peanuts movie opened. This is a sermon about wearing grace like a garment of light. Harriet Glickman offered her ideas to Charles Schultz as a coat of grace. In this one small corner of the world, she said, won’t you offer some change to relieve the mighty struggle of racism. At first Schulz declined, but then when further encouraged, he accept that grace, that gift of respect and raised a small ladder against the tall white walls of segregation which were all very high.
As you know I write and preach often about grace, the unexpected gifts of life that seem to beckon us on to daring rectitude. I named my blog facing grace, as well as my upcoming title; because I believe we need to stop excusing this good fortune as good luck, accept it as an unbidden call for a new and better world. People who use their wealth or good fortune to make the lives of others better are called by a more cynical world foolish. Generosity is so often mistaken for careless wealth. And while it is true that some will take advantage of that generosity, far more benefit from it than we realize.
It’s about making room for Grace. Just grace. Allowing for grace between the moments of our lives in which we are the takers out of necessity, and when we are the givers because of gifts we did not expect. Grace opens us up to the possibility of change. We practice Grace in so many ways, from comforting a friend, to serving this church, to serving our larger community. We continue our commitment in this coming year to partner with the Beardsley School, Mercy Learning Center and our work with a village in Kenya. But grace is far more than just receiving and giving of our abundance, it is allowing for a large enough heart to recognize those who need love and acceptance. What I have found in this darkest time of the year is that as the contemplative Richard Rohr says “All grace comes precisely from nowhere—from silence and emptiness, if you prefer—which is what makes it grace. It is both you and yet so much greater than you at the same time, which is probably why believers chose both uprushing fountains (John 7:38) and downrushing doves (Matthew3:16) as metaphors for this universal and grounding experience of spiritual encounter. Sometimes it is an uprush and sometimes it is a downrush, but it is always from a silence that is larger than you, surrounds you, and finally names the deeper truth of the full moment that is you.”
I have found the time leading up to Thanksgiving to be one of the most reflective times of the year. It’s the time of year to don the robes of grace that have made us, good, bad or indifferent as human beings this past year and look ahead bravely to the future.
Our life is marked by sorrows and joys, but it is largely behind us, and I find it helpful to look back on where the journey has taken us, me and you.
With Grace and Grit, John