When Dan and I first moved to the inner city of Portland, we had a lot of ideas about how we should go about turning the neighborhood upside-down with the love of Christ. This crime- and poverty-ravaged neighborhood needed our answers, and we rarely thought about what we might learn in the process. God saw to it that our inflated views of how much we knew and how much we had to offer others took a back seat to His intent to show us some glaring defects in our own character.
One day my son, James, was coloring in a coloring book. I don’t remember what the theme of the coloring book was—probably sports or race car drivers, something appealing to a five-year-old boy. While I busied myself in the kitchen, he began to color the arms and face of a person with a brown crayon. When I noticed, my response was immediate: “Oh, James, couldn’t you find the fl…? I stopped myself dead in my tracks. I was about to say, “flesh-colored crayon,” but suddenly realized I was poised to give my son a lesson coming from my racist, Eurocentric mindset. On the other hand, James—completely unaware of it—was operating from a much better mindset, one that sees people of all colors included in his world, not neatly separated and compartmentalized by ungodly mindsets and the racial hostility that has plagued our nation since its inception.
You may not remember this, but what we now call the “peach” crayon used to be called “flesh.” I get hackles just thinking about this. Did Crayola mean any harm when they decided to call it that color? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, whether or not the company meant any harm, we and the Anglo-Saxon powers-that-be readily accepted it and the skewed mindset that created this monster when Crayola introduced its “flesh” color in 1949. Due to cultural sensitivity stemming from the Civil Rights Movement, this label was changed to “peach” in 1962.
My point is this: Sometimes we’re quite unaware of harmful or morally wrong mindsets, but we often operate from them unwittingly. Where we grow up shapes us, what we’re taught shapes us, our experiences shape us, our families shape us—for good or bad. Dan and I found that living in a neighborhood that was opposite in every way from the neighborhoods in which we were raised, we had a lot to learn about the human race. I was glad in this coloring book instance that I let James teach ME something he had mastered, and I had yet to learn.
Now that’s extraordinary.