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Saturday, January 14, 2012

What has changed?

I'm having one of those days where the thoughts and emotions are running so rapidly that I am not sure I can write anything cogent, coherent or comprehensible (I know, aren't alliterations annoying!)  I am currently staying in Stone Mountain, GA, commuting to Columbia Theological Seminary for another Doctor of Ministry class.  Today I did some homework and then drove over to a community called Roswell.  It's historic and has been revitalized into one of those cute, trendy, good eats and cute shops kind of places.  What I wasn't expecting was the history.  Sadly, the Smith Plantation was closed for renovations this weekend, but I trekked around outside and enjoyed the cool, crisp air and wondered about what actually happened on that very land 50, 100 or 150 years ago.  The grounds are maintained by various garden clubs (those are really big here in the South) and they have a tiny little plot of cotton plants.  That got me fixed on the history of the place I  might just as soon not consider.  How many slaves were owned by this aristocratic Smith family?  Since the seemingly largest church in the area is Roswell Presbyterian Church and Mr. Smith was one of the first elders there, I wondered how many of their members owned slaves?  And then I wondered, what has changed?  Well, a lot.  And at the same time, not nearly enough. 

You may wonder why I say that (or not!) but I am always particularly struck by the disparities that exist in our land.  The dividing lines between haves and have-nots, poverty and wealth, upscale and undesirable neighborhoods are pretty fine lines here in the Atlanta area.  There are some areas where the only people of color you see are the ones at bus stops or serving the rest of us in some way or another.  What has changed?  Lots of things and not nearly enough. 

On a more personal level, I left the plantation and drove to the little village of Roswell to walk around and have lunch.  I noted that folks were nice but not all that welcoming in the shops and of course, no waiter in a semi-upscale restaurant is ever too crazy about serving a table for one.  I discovered that the red light was on at Krispy Kreme and I couldn't resist.  So, I parked but thought I'd walk around and I noticed some women walking from a bus stop.  I was stopped on the sidewalk and as they came toward me, one of the women must have noticed that I was ambling a bit and she asked me if I knew about the Old Roswell Cemetary.  She then told me that Teddy Roosevelt's grandparents were buried there.  I felt oddly and sweetly welcomed by someone whose hospitality, by virtue of my privilege, I seem not to really deserve.  What has changed?  I have and I still have a long way to go.


1 comment:

  1. I have really been intrigued by your observations of the South, the language, your sensitivity to privilege and poverty -- certainly invites further reflection. As I have not been resident for a while (other than a week or two for holiday or rehab w/my mom) I have to say I carry a lot of baggage. Which is probably what prompted my own personal "spell check" the other day. Anyhoo -- it would be fun to be there with you -- for a whole boatload of reasons. Keep 'em coming, dear one.

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