The Second Monday of October

The Second Monday of October
Deborah Williams

Recalling my childhood memories about Columbus Day feels intensely personal.

Why? What could be the cause of such a reaction to a date on the calendar, just another federal holiday? In grade school we memorized the "ocean blue" poem about the sailing adventures of Christopher Columbus. Just another page in the history books. But something about this lesson was different.

That was the first time I heard hate speech and racial slurs — from my friends, my fellow 9-year-old children — directed toward myself and people like me, Native Americans. Furthermore, it was the first time that I heard any of my friends speak that way. It was hurtful and a shock to hear, and a lot for a little kid to endure.

The Golden Rule

In my home, we did not speak of people in that way. It was not allowed. It was not tolerated. There was no compromise of this value to respect others. The golden rule was our guideline. We were taught to respond with compassion and that we had to try to "understand" that the person who said bad things or whose behavior was harsh may not know how hurtful their actions are.

So, as Columbus Day occurs yearly, so did the unpleasant words and behaviors. No longer meant for me — but still there. I never did thoroughly know what it was that I needed to understand, but I have never stopped trying. I am grateful for the lessons learned at home that all people are created equal. Our creator made us that way.

I have learned that an authentic belief in, and practice of the golden rule does work. It can change behaviors and, hopefully, hearts. Our Creator has made us equal and we cannot change that. But it can be a no-go, a fail, if one's beliefs are not changed. That is where the real work is. To change one's beliefs. I have hope. Always hope. But, as others have said, "Hope is not an action plan".

As a child in Vacation Bible School the reading of Matthew 11:28-30 made me imagine sitting in a field of grass with the wind blowing and the smell of the rich black earth. I was home.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30


Deborah Williams is a member of the United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group.

Posted or updated: 10/8/2017 12:00:00 AM


Read more:

*"Columbus Day: Now You Know" - a reflection by Cindy Saufferer

*Resource: "The Environmental Justice with Indigenous Peoples" Curriculum
Download this resource and explore how we can seek justice with our Native American sisters and brothers

Learn More:

*"The Enduring Effects of the Doctrine of Discovery"

*"One Book, Many Voices"
The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich addresses tribal sovereignty.

Link opens in a new window. "Acts of Repentance guide stresses healing" - The Act of Repentance Guide helps begin the journey of repentance.


*Racial Justice Time Line

Racial Justice Time Line coverThis resource charts United Methodist Women's efforts for human rights and milestones in United States history. It has been updated as a flipbook with content through the present.

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