My driver in Memphis today: “Big Hands”
He told me that was his nickname when he worked for the government. And yes, this 67-year-old, 6’2, African American has huge hands.
We started off with pleasantries:
Me: “Did you grow up here?”
Him: “Yes sir. Born and raised, except for when I was in the military.”
Me: “Wow, thank you for your service, where did you serve?”
Him: “I served as a Marine in Vietnam sir.”
The conversation continued and he explained that he was in the service for 6 years and was a bomb disposal expert. He told me he got out because he saw too many of his friends getting blown up and figured that it would eventually happen to him and he had a young family to support.
By the age of 19 he was married and a father. Tragedy struck when his young wife died in her sleep – he simply woke up to find her dead. He wistfully shared: “it was a nice way for her to go but she was much too young.” He waited until his kids finished school to find love again and is married for 20 years. He said: “I could have stayed kind of single but she told me one day – we better get married or we both have to move on.”
But what I really wanted to ask him what it was like to grow up in the segregated South. It was my 3rd car trip (and 5th in total) before I had the courage to ask him. He told me that he remembers sitting in the back of the bus on the way to school. He also remembered his parents bringing him to see MLK but not allowing any of the teenage children to join marches or protests because they knew it could be dangerous. He remembered when MLK was shot in the city.
He told me that his parents taught him to see white people as good people and that being a bad person is not about being black or white. He told me you have to understand history to realize that white people liberated the slaves. He proudly told me: “It wasn’t black people who elected Obama, it was good white people who could see past the color of his skin.” He told me he raised his children to not think of themselves as “less than” and that they had to respect people and hate no one.
Unsolicited, he told me that he respects President Trump. He shared that he was raised to respect people and his time in the military taught him to especially respect authority. He remembers liking President Nixon and concluded by saying: “when there is darkness inside someone, it eventually comes to light and I love Jesus so I believe in God’s grace.” He went on to talk about Moses and he lost me.
We had a good laugh about how he got the nickname “big hands. He left me in no doubt that he has a big heart too.