yesterday i drove through the park across the street from my home. i've written about the role this park has played in my life, and i was saddened to see that the swimming pool in which i swam as a child was being demolished. the pool had been closed for several years because expensive repairs were needed to keep it open. i suspect that the "city fathers" decided to forgo the repairs because the pool was serving only poor, and preponderately black, children; the children of the affluent swim in their own home pools or in other pools that are not open to the public. as i drove on thinking of the happy times i had spent in this beautiful pool, it struck me that it hadn't occureed to me as a child how privileged i was. in those days, the pool was "whites only;" the children of the men who were relegated to jobs like keeping the park grass cut were barred from the pool. it wasn't really a "public" pool in my childhood, because only the children of the white establishment were allowed to swim there.
as i continued to think along those lines, i was, and am, troubled about our failure to see the injustices that are woven into our lives. just as it never entered my mind all those years ago that, while i played in a beautiful pool maintained by tax dollars, others whose parents paid taxes were denied the use of the pool that their parents' taxes helped build, staff, and maintain, so injustice is invisible to us most of the time if we are not victims of it.
later in the day, i drove past a home a few blocks from mine that had been vacant for sometime. i had noticed recently that it appeared that someone was moving into the home, and i was happy to think that the house and yard might be made beautiful once more. as i watched a young black girl playing in the yard, i caught myself thinking, "blacks have moved into that house. what will that do to the value of my property?" in the pride of my moral superiority, i, like the pharisee in Jesus' story, was guilty of the sin of thanking God that i was not like that publican. yet, here i was, a person who prided himself of being free of the sin of racism, thinking more about the value of my own property than about the joy that this child and her family must be feeling as they settled into their new home in this lovely neighborhood.
my prayers today are that all of us will be more alert to the injustices that we should struggle against and that we are transformed so that the pride of our own false moral rectitude gives way to the humility of the publican who prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."