My granddaughter Tianna is hard at work on her nursing prerequisites at Pasadena City College, and as her personal tutor, I’m right in there alongside of her. Last year I had to relearn American History and Algebra (my head still hurts), and this term I’m working on Chemistry and English Composition. I’m discovering some things I missed the first time around.
For her English course, I’ve been helping Tianna work on an essay review of a book entitled Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich. This is a story coming out of the author’s heritage in the Chippewa Native American tribe. The narrator of the particular chapter she’s dealing with is a young man whose life is closely involved with his grandparents, so his character and values are being shaped in an atmosphere that is not only cross-cultural, but cross-generational as well. Her thesis is that a young person growing up in the creative tension between cultures and generations has a better chance of emerging in interesting and unique ways than someone who is nurtured in a simpler, more homogeneous environment.
As we were talking about the book, I realized that this was Tianna’s own story. She is the child of a Caucasian-American mother and an African-American father, so she benefits from the “hybrid vigor”* that comes from her varied DNA sources. As I thought about the many adventures and journeys her ancestors must have experienced, I felt very bland and vanilla-ish. My straight-line heritage from 1620 Dutch settlers in the Hudson River Valley seemed boring by contrast.
But here we were, granddaughter and grandpa — separated by fifty-six years, three major wars, the invention of television, computers and IPhones, Rock-n-Roll, folk, rap and hip hop music — yet, profoundly together, on the same wavelength, into each other. I wouldn’t trade this kind of shared experience for anything.
I guess that’s why I came to ABC in 1972. The racial makeup of the neighborhood was changing, and we had a chance to be part of a church that embraced the variety of peoples and cultures that made up our community. The members of ABC have followed that dream together, and I believe we enjoy many of the benefits of spiritual hybrid vigor as a result. We have begun to experience some of the blessings Paul wrote about:
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
When Tianna’s mom Laura was nine or ten years old, we passed a school bus when we were driving through Arcadia. She looked at all the faces peering out of the bus windows, and she said, “Dad, they’re all white!” That’s when I knew we were onto something good.
*In biology, increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals.