I met Mary during law school. One day she simply parked herself next to me during class … a Law Ethics class … and then proceeded to flagrantly cheat off me during every exam we were given. Law Ethics, indeed! After mid-terms, when she was still peeking looks at my answers, I finally confronted her. “You’re cheating off me,” I said.
“I’m not stupid,” she said. “I know who to sit next to.”
At that moment, we looked into each others’ eyes and became friends. We decided to form a study group and went on to help each other during hours and hours of research, repetitive study and yes, even tears. We rocked!
When we graduated from law school, Mary stood me up as class leader and friend. I graduated with a 4.2 average (teachers were allowed to award A-pluses in some classes.) Mary graduated with an outstanding 3.7.
Two months later, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. End of career.
Still, we stayed friends. After brain surgery, I was able to barely manage the daunting work as a Paralegal, while Mary went on to form her own company, and start a prestigious national youth choir. Mary’s work was exceptional and, believe me, she didn’t cheat when it came to being real.
Once a month, Mary held diversity training workshops in her home. I attended every one. She taught me what it was to be African American. I taught her what it was to be white. We never compromised … we never misinterpreted. When she asked me to serve on the Board of Directors of her corporation, I was honored.
Her skin was my skin.
Mary then got cancer. She lived nine more agonizing months.
Today … TODAY … I took the last picture taken of her, my dear friend — a picture of us together smiling and hugging — and I held our picture as I watched America’s first African American president receive the oath of office and give his Inaugural speech.
Today our nation took the scraps of our patchwork quilt and we stitched it together into one beautiful multi-colored, all-inclusive blanket. We cried. We healed. We discovered HOPE.
We are no longer different.
So, now the real work begins. Now the tough study group forms. Now we take our final exam.
Now we we hold our hands together… our black and white hands, our rich and poor hands, our Christian and Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and Atheist hands, our American and our World hands … and at last, clasped and quilted together we can say, Amen and Amen.