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What Legacy Have We Given Our Children?

Updated on September 26, 2015

In 1986, I became father to a beautiful new-born baby boy. It was the answer to my prayer. I had asked the Lord for a baby and He had chosen to send me down the road of adoption for the blessing for which I had so long asked. I consulted a Christian adoption agency that placed a packet in my hands to fill out before the process could start. I was filling out the adoption questionnaire and reached a topic to which I had not given any thought. The application asked me to write my preferences as to what characteristics I would prefer in the child I was to adopt. the question made me pause for a long moment. I had not considered what type of child, only a healthy baby. After only a quick moment of thinking on what the Bibles says, I wrote that I wanted a healthy baby, any race, and would be willing to take mild handicaps, should that be what was offered first. It was not that long after, I received the call. A sweet young birth-mother had read my profile and accepted me as the father of her new-born baby son. She had prayerfully decided she could not raise her boy on her own and would trust God to be there for him and trust me to be his dad. When I reflect on that decision even now, I see the magnitude of it. I see the selflessness of it and I love that mom more than words can say.

I had considered myself a well-read Christian man that understood God had created human beings as one race, with all its variety of color and physical characteristics. I knew from reading Scripture that God had blessed all races of men and died for them all. But I am no fool. I also knew I must acknowledge another reality. I was not as yet living in heaven with a God that created all and in which there is no bias, I was living on this sinful earth. Perhaps in the "sweet by and by" all would be smooth for my baby, but he and I would still be living here, on this planet, in the "nasty now and now." I knew that should I become the father to a child of color, I would have to educate myself and allow this child to see himself and the world as I myself never had to, as a black man. I could not expect my son or daughter to see things as I had seen them, trying to be an idealist and giving the best effort to be "color-blind" as the saying goes. I could put my head in the sand and not see the problems my child would face, or I could learn enough to be a strength to my child when others may hurt him out of ignorance or even generational hatred.

I began learning right away. My child, who smiled at me the moment he was placed into my arms, immediately became my son, mine. I knew I would die for this little man should I be called to do such a thing and I would give my heart to him and patiently wait for him to give his heart to me in exchange. Of course, babies need daddies and my son bonded with me and we became inseparable. The same happened with my daughter a year later. I made mistakes of course, but my self-education was helping to make me see and understand the vast cultural differences between how I was raised and how a child of color has to be raised in this evil world. The following poem is my feeble attempt to write some of the feelings I had when I began to look at the problem of man's inhumanity to man and the divisiveness a small thing like skin tone brings in this fallen world full of ignorant sinners.

The conclusion to which I arrived from all my life: As long as God approves of us and our life path, as long as a man cares to stand for right, he will leave a legacy that no one can take away from him, for it is made of incorruptible treasure and held for safe-keeping by God Himself.


by Robert Smith ("No Body")

The Spirit moved me, so without delay

To the attic went I, with mop and spray,

Since I'd moved in, I'd wanted to clean

The dusty old attic, to a sparkling sheen.

Nearly finished, I saw something amiss

A loose board that I'd need, a hammer to fix,

Upon closer inspection, there

was something inside

Some papers wrapped up, in a piece of rawhide,

Perhaps it was a treasure, of some worth to me -

On the first page I saw, was a family tree,

I glanced at it first, then had a surprise,

Something I saw, brought tears to my eyes,

There were names that I saw, in this family line

I realized from them, the family was mine.

Grandpa was on a branch, drawn with care

Grandma too, and uncle was there,

And next to great-grandpa, a flower was drawn

And a note was written, "Shot in his lawn"

His daddy was there, on the page little higher

A note said, "Lynched by a mob, then set afire"

I stared at the words, till tears blurred my sight

First I was sad, then I wanted to fight!

After a while, I found the strength to read on,

A piece from a newspaper, called "The New Dawn"

It said:

"Justice was done, in our fair town today

There's one less darky, to get in our way,

He put his black hands, on

the Mayor's sweet wife

He paid for that act, by losing his life."

The bile churned, deep in my throat

I heaved and coughed, and started to choke,

But I was pulled to read, all that I could

My mind said I couldn't, but I knew that I would,

Written in the scrawl, of a shaky weak hand

The truth was written, by the wife of that man.

It said:

"Mah good man, he die today,

De men in de town, dey tuk him away

He do some errunds, all cross town

He see de mayah's wif, she almos fall down

He retch out his han', and he

keep her up steady

Dey beat mah man down, and

got a rope ready

Afta he die, dey burn him wid fire

Don't wanna go on, Lawd I so tire."

For hours I sat there, papers in hand,

I wished for some moments,

I was some other man,

As I was putting, the papers away

A sheet on the floor, all tattered and gray,

I could readily tell, as I picked up the leaf

It was the most read, had

absorbed the most grief

It said:

"Deese de las words, mah man say

'Fo dose wite devils, tuk him away -

"Gawd I dun, all dat you say

Now it my time, to go far away

Tak care o' my fam'ly, I dun all dat I cud

Show'd em dah Savyah, jus like I shud

If I cud rites, I rite me a letta, I say

Fatha fugive dem, dey don' no no betta."

For the moment the sadness,

was too much to bear,

I folded the papers, with love and with care,

My ancestor died, for doing what's right

But the injustice he fought, was still mine to fight,

He was God's servant, saved just like me

Battling Satan, in his quest to be free,

I sat there quietly, and started to pray

And God slowly drained, all my anger away,

I realized a gift, had been handed to me

I found a hero, and a grand legacy

A man of character, did what was right

He loved the Lord, with all his might

He loved his family, and his enemies too

Now that gave my mind, something to do

What would I have done,

had I been in his stead?

I knew what I would do, and I hung my head,

I wouldn't have died, with such dignity

Praying to God, for my family,

I don't think I could love,

my enemies that way

Knowing they would kill me,

when they took me away

I would fight, and probably think only of me

I'd miss passing on, this legacy.

So I made a vow, to my God above

To always show, that kind of love

And I'd pass on this gift, that was given to me

And pass on the gift, of his legacy.

This is a fictionalized account based on a true story that was repeated so many times in our country's history. I don't know what emotions this stirs in you, but there was a whole range of emotions that ran through me. I wrote it, but as it was finished on the page it seemed to take on a life of its own.

Any person that is a descendant of this man in the of the poem above should realize the legacy that they have been handed. The man, a true hero, died so needlessly. I understood any anger, resentment or vengeance that a person may feel just reading such an account. The helplessness that one would feel in their mind would be like you were watching a horror show on a home movie reel.

It slowly began to dawn on me that I, a white man, all of whose family are from the south would be part of a legacy also, but perhaps from the side that had perpetrated this atrocity. My ancestors could have been the ones for whom this godly man prayed. I realized also that God heard that prayer and some of the people's hearts there may have been affected or changed. Some of those individuals would begin learning about the God that this man cried to, and then would become true believers in Jesus after God worked in their hearts. This means that not only did this man present a legacy to his family, but to all those for whom he prayed and that changed because of him. This man's love of God and his neighbor, helped to open doors to the hearts of men and allow God to work miracles.

How does a man love like that? How do you step outside yourself and give your life for the sake of others? Where does such strength come from? The Bible says, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus said, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do." And this dear man mimicked his Father and said the same as Jesus did all those centuries ago.

What was he asking of the people around him that were about to take his life? In just a few words to God, he was asking the people to remember that every act has consequences, so beware. He was saying that someone was watching that would hold them accountable one day. He was saying that they should consider where their future home will be and get right with God before it was too late.

If he had time to reason with the crowd, I believe that this hero would have told each person there that all men are sinners and that in the eyes of God all stand in condemnation. He would say that Jesus died for them all so they would not have to go to hell. Jesus paid each man's sin debt if only a person turns to God.

I beg of you to let this man's story effect you as well. Examine your heart and see whether you know Jesus the way he did. Receive Him as Savior and know the kind of love that he knew.

Pray this prayer: Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing I can do to pay for or anything I can do to pay for the sin that separates me from You.. But You came to earth in a man's body and died for me. You paid for my sin debt so I don't have to pay with an eternity in hell. Please Jesus, forgive me of my sin. I renounce my life as I have been living it and turn from living my life my way to living for You, because You are the only Way of salvation. I believe that you died, were buried, and rose again for me. Please save me right now. Thank You for hearing and saving me. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.


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    • profile image

      b.t. 7 years ago

      great work in writing to all of you may god keep you wise . god bless you all

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

      God bless you too b.t.

    • profile image

      sophs 7 years ago

      A brilliant piece, keep up the good work :-)

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

      It was something that has been in my heart for a long time. How each family has a history and sometimes the greatest things about a family are the family's secrets. Things like suffering and pain or valor and heartbreak, things that happen happen for a reason and for future generations to learn from. I think that this was a hard piece because it shares a secret that is my family's experience. Indeed maybe it was my family that could have performed the atrocity. this is still something we all can learn from. We are all humans and grow in the human experience.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      It's such a grievous thing to think about what slavery and hatred used to be like for those oppessed by it. Hatred is still rampant in the world today. I say the Enemy only goes after those that have the humblest of hearts; and for every one that suffered at the hands of the "god of this world", his/her place is lifted up in the heavens...just like Jesus. All of God's children are still as lambs led to the slaughter; we will live and die with dignity, just as our Father...and we will live without evil forevermore. That is our victory, our hope in our Lord!! Be blessed.

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Thank you for your comment, my precious sister. This story was near and dear because I couldn't give this kind of legacy to my children. I could give them Jesus and show them a Christian role model. But this legacy borne of the suffering of a people that God has raised up from the bonds of slavery, I am no part of directly. I am a child of the Christian freedom fighters that worked so tirelessly in the abolition cause. The people that lost their lives running the underground railroad, the people that got killed by the KKK for loving fellow human beings. That is a good thing to share but it is not the legacy that was passed to this man. I don't want to sound ungrateful but I am very touched by this story.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 6 years ago

      Nobody, This is so beautiful! For me it is quite timely! God is truly amazing! I am totally aware of discriminatory practices to undermine and cast doubt on one’s integrity as well as injustices and stereotypes that have been and continue to be perpetrated against people of color… I realize that it is bred by fear, ignorance, insecurity and spiritual warfare> “God is not a respecter of persons.”

      “Through Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors..."

      What is so interesting I have before me research of Ancestors that dates my family history back fourteen generations… “ On Christ the “Solid ROCK” I Stand! Praise GOD!

      It is my sincere desire to pass down to my grandchildren and their children God willing a continued legacy of the Love of Jesus Christ!

      Thank you for sharing once again your gift of prose, in HIS Love, Joy, Peace & Blessings!

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 6 years ago from Rochester, New York

      I thank you that you give your stamp of approval on this DeBorrah. I needed conformatation from a sister that would feel any impropriety in the poem. I have waited to get it for many many years. This poem I wrote and put in the church newsletter. Of course at that time there were no black folks in our church and I'd say now there is a good showing of the neighborhood. Many asians and blacks some hispanic folks. Anyway, I didn't want to be offensive. I so much appreciate your being blessed by it. Love you sister DeB.

    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 5 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      BRAVO! Excellent! Wonderful!!! Your so talented! Voted-UP! Awesome!!! God Bless YOU!

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

      I have waited long for you to read this and wondered what you would think of it. Some things people say are our of bounds for anyone that is not a person of color to say. I get many many reads on this poem but very few comments. I so appreciate your affirmation. I love you Lottie.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      This poem is wonderful. You are truly gifted at putting words to paper, my brother.

      We have so associated lynching with black men that most Americans no longer know what they once all knew: a hundred times more whites were lynched than blacks. Lynching was fairly common, especially in the west where there wasn't much law around and people settled things for themselves.

      I enjoyed your creative art here, my friend. God Bless You!

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

      This was a daydream Jim. I was watching something that was depicting the lynching mentality and it occurred to me how little the people with mob mentality listen. They run with murderous rage upon someone which probably has done nothing, certainly nothing worthy of such treatment. I had read something about a person imprisoned for doing this very thing, simply touching a white woman. It was pure fiction, but the horrible truth is probably this happened and it probably happened a whole lot in our past. Mob mentality is so horrible. I would love to believe that it is far from easy to reach today but I know better. And like you said, it isn't just for black folks to worry about it is a human on human crime. Thank you for stopping by. love ya brother.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Your poetic storytelling is superb and this Hub and poem are worthy of far wider readership than just us Hubbers. May God use it for the purpose you envisioned in its creation, is my prayer to our Heavenly Father in the holy name of His Son, even Jesus Christ. Amen

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

      You always are so encouraging to me. This poem had me very nervous at first. I had no idea how people would react to it. My life revolves around people of color. My beautiful wife and my two children are black. This story was very similar to a couple of stories I read many years ago. The stories hurt my heart so bad. My own family is from the south and to think that in generations past perhaps my own family would hurt people like these precious souls were hurt in those stories I read just tore out my insides. I know God is in control and in Christ is where human beings will find love. Thank you again for the encouragement. Bob.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 2 days ago from Southern Minnesota

      Powerful Bob! Powerfully beautiful for your great love for your children to really reach into their past and potential future experience to be the best dad to them you could be. Also powerfully disturbing in the poem how deeply dark this history is.

      Most beautiful is your conclusion of understanding how we all carry that potential for depravity of all varieties and all so desperately in need of a Savior.

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 hours ago from Rochester, New York

      Thank you, Tam, for stopping by. I wrote this so long ago. It was powerful to me at the time.

      I have so much of my life invested in the African-American life and culture. But it's getting harder and harder for me to understand in the way I felt I understood in years past. A person can't really understand until they have lived with and are a product of that experience. Therefore, I will never completely understand. I knew this years ago but now the pressure to not even try is in the world.

      I'm just here saying I love them as a people and as part of my family. But more and more I find myself pushed aside by others for the fact that I'm not Black. It seems there's a new Black awareness in the air and that is bringing so many emotions to the fore that are growing more isolating by the day. This is a block to my understanding. By design, I'm not meant to understand it because I can't be white and understand what it means to be black. I am hearing this all the time now.

      I keep believing that love is all I need but there is such a polarizing force pushing against my "love is enough" thinking and it is very confusing. My in-laws and even my children are being affected by this. Thankfully, my wife is a strength to me and I'm so thankful for her. Wow, I guess I had a lot to say about this. I actually feel better. Thank you, Bob.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 5 hours ago from Southern Minnesota

      Hi Bob, Glad you have good support in spite of the resistance. Your love matters whether it is resisted or not. Its God's business concerning what the results of that end up being.

      It is sincerely difficult if not impossible to totally understand someone else's experience because we are not them, whatever the situation. I am not sure that renders someone incapable of loving in the sense of caring, encouraging and standing by and with and I hope that one day your efforts to reach in will one day be embraced.

      Your reply would make a great addition and update to the conversation of your post. It is certainly a tough, thought provoking, yet relevant discussion.

      God bless Bob! Don't get weary...

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