Stories are more potent than many give them credit. They have the power to heal and empower. One man bravely chose to tell his own painful story again and again -- he could never have imagined what huge impact it would have.
While many countries worldwide still have discriminatory laws, many of us adults live in a relatively peaceful society and live a privileged lifestyle.
But, at the same time, many of us may have grown up witnessing injustices in the past -- whether on a small or large scale.
[Left] Gilbert Caldwell and Grace getting married; [Right] Gilbert Caldwell and Grace when they are older.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
So, as adults, we have become somewhat desensitized to the wrongs that may surround us, even if we disagree with them.
An incident that caused the reverend to make a point of taking on Black issues.
This hardened way of living can, in some cases, cause us to become numb to the unfair acts we may witness -- we do not feel compelled to do anything driven by a more profound sense of compassion anymore.
Gilbert Caldwell laughing with his wife Grace.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
THE POWER OF COMPASSION
This indifference might be okay if the world were perfect. But, it's not, and this not only goes for current problems but issues that still affect us today, which stem from the past.
Luckily for us, we have kids. Many of these children can feel the reality of injustices as they have not spent their whole lives learning to ignore them. This sensitivity causes motivation -- a push to change our societies for the better.
Gilbert Caldwell.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
One man who learned about this beautiful and innocent kindness first-hand was reverend Gilbert Caldwell and his wife, Grace. They were blown away by the surprise of a lifetime, as Grace expressed:
"It was really magnificent
to know that kids cared that much."
But, this story all began decades earlier, before these children were even born. It happened on what was meant to be the best day of Caldwell and his wife's lives.
RACISM AT ITS FINEST
In 1957 they said their "I do's" in North Carolina. When the wedding finished, they excitedly made their way to their honeymoon. A comfortable hotel bed was waiting at Mount Airy Resort in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. After hours of driving, they arrived at their destination.
Disgustingly, they were banned from staying over at the hotel. Why? For nothing more than the color of their skin -- an incident that caused the reverend to make a point of taking on Black issues. He originally joined the Civil Rights Movement, working alongside the likes of Martin Luther King Jr.
Then, as he got older, he and his wife made their way to different schools to educate kids on segregation and the Civil Rights Movement itself. He would often include his story about the hotel as an anecdote.
A picture of Gilbert Caldwell and Grace at their wedding with their loved ones.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
TINY HEARTS TAKE ACTION
While he had spoken to many children in 2017, the fifth graders at Bear Tavern Elementary could not let go of what they had just heard, especially Caldwell's personal experience with racism. One child had tears in their eyes, expressing:
"It was really heartbreaking. I feel like this is the worst thing someone could do to someone."
Months followed, and these students couldn't forget Caldwell's story. So, they took action, all writing letters to the hotel that kicked the reverend and his wife out all those years ago.
A picture of Gilbert Caldwell alongside Martin Luther King Jr.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
THE HOTEL ANSWERS
They asked that the hotel provide a full honeymoon for Caldwell and his wife, completely free of charge. Astonishingly, the hotel responded. Although a new establishment had replaced the old hotel with new owners, they gave an emphatic yes!
This time, 60 years after their first attempted visit, both husband and wife were treated with the respect they deserve and should have been given the first time around.
One of the Fifth Graders tearing up.┃Source: youtube.com/CBSSundayMorning
LEARNING FROM FUTURE GENERATIONS
These children have not only been educated but have put that knowledge into action in a way that makes the world just a tiny bit better. One kid's words in their letter made it clear that this lesson truly sunk in:
"The Caldwells made me think about not only standing up for myself but standing up for others and fixing mistakes that were made in the world."
This ability to take off the armor that we have taken on through all the years of witnessing atrocities is what we need to do. Then, like these children, we can genuinely empathize, stand outside of ourselves and do what's right.
TAKING IT TO THE SUPREME COURT
Sadly, history is filled with discrimination and those who managed to beat this injustice. In 1958 mixed-race couple Richard and Mildred Loving left their mark on history.
The authorities arrested them in Virginia based on the Racial Integrity Act, which made mixed-race marriages illegal in that state.
After being released, they moved to Washington, where interracial marriage was legal. But, although the laws were just, they still faced day-to-day prejudice. So, frustrated with the constant racism, the pair decided to take legal action.
Their journey was difficult, but they eventually found themselves in the United States Supreme Court, leading to a fantastic win on June 12, 1967.
The court stated that Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws went against the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court also denounced the same laws across the country.
From writing letters to going to court, no action, big or small, is wasted against fighting what is unjust -- we just need the compassion and determination to take that next step.
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