Monday, March 8, 2010

Murray Has A Last Name.

Oh my goodness. I am ashamed to write what I am about to write. I wish there was a way to portray myself in a better light, but there just isn't. I am wriggling and squirming with my own sense of, "I wish I had been better." So here it is.
There was a boy named Murray. He had a last name. Murray B. If most of my brothers or sisters are reading this today, they will know exactly of whom I speak. Murray was our age. He lived with his mother in a run-down, white, clapboard house on the street adjacent to our downtown church. Murray had acne. His hair was dirty. His clothes didn't match and they were always too small for him. He went to a different elementary school because their rental house was not anywhere near our neighborhood. I am not sure at all how my father found him or knew about him, but somehow Murray B. made his way into our lives. And boy was I pi*****ed. The gall of my father to make us go by Murray's house, go inside (gross!) and tell him it was time to go to church. I mean, he was not one of us. We knew it. He knew it. And, to make matters worse, my parents expected us to be nice to him. They carried on a normal conversation with him just like he was one of our "regular" friends. But he wasn't. He was poor. His mama was poor. They had torn up linoleum on their floor and I know there wasn't any heat. Why didn't he just go to his own church? True, that of all of us, he lived closer to the fellowship hall than anybody in our church. But still!! Wasn't there a church for people like him?
I promise you that we begged daddy not to make us take Murray to church. "Please don't make me sit by him. Don't let him ride in our car. He smells. He's rowdy. He can't even read good. Nobody even likes him at church. Ok, he can come, but we're not talking to him."
Deaf ears is what my father wore back then. I'm not sure there ever was an explanation, a sermon, a moral, a lesson. There was no, "But this is a child of God like each one of you. We should reach out to the poor. He needs us. We are doing the right thing." Nope. No explanation. Our ugly blue station wagon just pulled up in Murray's yard most Sundays and one of us was expected to go in and see if he had a clean shirt to wear to church. To our church. It's so hard to be benevolent when you're a "tween." Why did my parents insist on trying to bring Murray into the picture? And, why church? Why not just take him to the library or something? What on earth were they thinking?
Where do we learn in life who is "acceptable" to love? From whom do we take our cues that this person is ok to sit by, but it's best to shun the other one? (Shun slyly, of course so nobody sees.) I don't know about you, but I have pretty fixed opinions and habits when it comes to who I really and truly want to include in my life. Yeah, sure, I may volunteer at the soup kitchen every now and then, but then I get in my car and drive back to my safe little neighborhood. I drive away from the Murrays in life. I drive away from torn up linoleum floors and houses that are not heated. I had just rather pretend that all of those Murrays do not exist. OK, I am putting myself out there. I bet you $100 that I am not alone in this. How many Murrays do you know? And, why is it so hard for us to love Murray?
Stretching has always been hard for me. I can't even touch my toes. It's easy to pull a hamstring or tear a ligament if stretching isn't done slowly and gradually. Right?
What if.....what if....what if... we each began to stretch just a little bit more each day to include the Murrays....and the Taylors in our lives? If we do five deep knee bends today, should we do seven tomorrow? Isn't that how we get back in shape after we've atrophied the parts of ourselves we have ignored for years?
Looking back, I know that Murray had a mama who loved him. Murray had a mama who must have cried when that man (and his "loving" kids) came and picked up her son and included him in an experience that maybe she couldn't. I really never thought about Murray's mama until I had a son who not many people want to ride with or sit with or talk to.
You see, I'm pretty in tune with shunning slying. I'm in tune with it because I do it myself. I think I'm ready to stretch---and reach---reach out.
Each one....reach one.
How hard can that be? For starters, I mean. Then maybe, without pulling anything, each one....reach two. You don't really have to explain it to anybody.
Just pull your car up into their yard---take it from there.


  1. The photo is of Taylor and my friend, Do-Nah. She just pulled up in my front yard and took it from there. She taught Taylor how to walk. Actually she pulled up in my back yard...and many times. It took her a while to teach the 3 year old little boy to walk. She never gave up. Taylor did not love her during those days so much. But we parents were and are eternally grateful. Pull up in their yard...take it from there. You might teach somebody to walk.

  2. I love this one. I laughed out loud because I can hear you saying this like you are sitting next to me. But, it does make you stop and think about who we might be judging in secret. Thank you for opening my eyes today.

  3. The more you write, the more I remember.

    The more I remember, the more I realize how extraordinarily ahead of their time your wonderful family was.

    And is.

  4. Marianne, thank goodness you can write because i remember these stories so vividly. Why is it that a name like Murray B could stick in our minds after all these years? I do wonder what happened to this young man but thanks for reminding us that there are a lot of Murray B's in the world and God loves every one of them.

  5. oh yeah hits close to home today for sure , thanks for opening eyes.

  6. Marianne, It just keeps getting better and better. Most of US were like that as children for fear of not being accepted ourselves if we accepted the "different." My father was cripple from polio and I remember how it made me always try to fight for the underdog. I made many mistakes, but my conscience ate me alive. The good thing is who we are as adults and what we teach to our children and grandchildren. If I were you I would hold your dad up on a pedestal! What a fine man he was! I love you, OBY

  7. My favorite line is, "You don't really have to explain it to anybody."

  8. I love this blog of yours. Gosh, I am thinking about all the “Murray’s” my parents placed in our paths as we grew up. For all their faults, Sara and Bill Gray, especially Sara, inspired in me a curiosity about folks in the world who were unique. It started with Mr. Richards who lived next door to us on Boxwood Lane in Knoxville. He was really mean. “Get out of my yard!” he would yell. Sara was kind but this behavior did not sit well with her but she would explain to us, “It is Mr. Richard’s yard and remember, there are angels unaware.” It was not until after Mr. Richards attended my mother’s Arlington Baptist Church Ladies’ Auxiliary luncheon, drunk as a skunk, that she took her retaliation. Armed with her famous fudge and two little girls, Sara marched over to Mr. Richard’s house and knocked on the door. My knees would have been shaking except that my mother was invincible even then and I knew I was safe. Boy, she let him have it; fudge, two little girls, glorious smiles and sweet, gracious, southern, steel magnolia conversation. Gosh, after that dismantling, he was our wonderful friend until he died. He even had the grace to loose a leg and then we actually knew someone on crutches which was for us so cool.
    I am to this day drawn to the “Murray’s” in life. I think when I was young I knew what I have toiled to remember again and again; we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around. I like that. Angels unaware.
    Big Love, Christy


Thank you so much for your comments. I know it's scary to put yourself out there. I really appreciate your being on this journey with me. You really are brave..