I’m maybe four years old. It happened in the baseball field—or, cramped backyard—of our home in Sacramento, California. An overturned picnic table doubled as a backstop. Dad was pitching to me. I swung the littlest and lightest of bats, smacking a ball over the fence. There were Whoops! at my success, which is when the memory’s sights and sounds drift away like a tree’s last leaf in winter.
There is no known evidence of a Kodak moment to reinforce my mighty exploits. Whenever I’ve been asked about first childhood recollections, this is the one I confidently share. Most other kid-based early memories have been inspired by photos or told and retold family tales.
I admit to being confused over what to call Black Americans. The English language is restless, and keeps evolving. So does society. Pressing the shift for the “B” in Black is fine with me. I’m also happy to do the two-key deed to upgrade the “W” in White.
As an aging White baby boomer, I overheard my parents’ and grandparents’ generations use colored when referring to Blacks. Martin Luther King Jr. chose Negro for his speeches and sermons. Negro now seems outdated, even jarring. I suspect, back then, he carefully articulated Negro to distinguish it from the other N-word: nigger. Though nigger wasn’t used by everyone in prior generations, I recall hearing it as often as Jap for Japanese or greaser for Hispanics.
Until God briefly rubbed shoulders with my soul in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada on a young adult retreat, I planned on becoming a lawyer.
God’s call, while not earth-shattering, was life-changing. It took me on a road to seminary. All things considered, decades later—including a divorce later, one awful encounter with the well-mannered actions of institutional evil later, random and regular acts of hypocrisy later, spending too much money on books later, always having the eager companion of doubt later—I can still recall the faded, ephemeral memory of a divine calling and humbly say, “Thanks, God.”
It’s been a ride.
Before thoughts of slogging through law school and changing the world as we know it as a criminal attorney championing the rights of the ignored, abandoned, and misunderstood, I wanted to own a horse ranch in Idaho.