Little did I know when I laid a dollar on the counter at our local dollar store to purchase a foam-ball toy gun, that buying a child’s toy would be like investing in a hammer that helped tear down the Berlin Wall.
Even though the Berlin Wall came crumbling down amidst a mix of passionate emotions on that fateful day of November 9, 1989, walls of prejudice between differing races, ages, and even people of various abilities still stand today.
Few things shatter through these walls more easily than innocent children and, as today taught me, foam-ball toy guns from the dollar store...
My alarm began ever-so-rudely blaring into my ear at 7 a.m. and when I rolled over and groggily consulted my calendar for the day’s agenda, only one word jumped off the page: APPOINTMENTS.
Great, what fun. An hour later, I had all the kids loaded into our vehicle and we were off! Well, give or take a few minutes and a few trips back inside for a lost shoe and lost sanity...well, we found the shoe.
I collapsed into a chair in the waiting room after we checked in at the doctor’s office and my children wasted no time digging through the “Fun Bag” (a.k.a, the “Sanity Salvation Bag” during long and boring appointments) and oohing and ahhing over its contents.
My four-year-old Judah promptly removed the little foam-ball gun and before I could educate him on the rules (such as “don’t shoot people you don’t know” or “don’t eat the foam ball”), he walked up to a little old lady sitting next to me and SHOT her (with a shy little smile, of course)! I was mortified. I lamely tried to get Judah to apologize while simultaneously attempting to slide between a crack in the floor and disappear! I didn’t know if I was more embarrassed at Judah’s faux pas or relieved that the shock of a little foam ball suddenly flying at her face didn’t send that sweet old lady into cardiac arrest!
I was shocked when this white-haired tiny lady actually snickered and waved it off, “Oh, don’t worry about it! My grandson does the same kind of stuff.” With that, she and Judah began to chat and I watched in amazement as the barrier of age came crumbling to the ground with the greatest of ease.
But the day had just begun, so a short time later I was tossing that toy gun back into the “Fun Bag” and hurrying out the door. Next stop: the dentist. Once we were settled into the waiting room there, the old adage, “Hurry up and wait” was definitely applicable. Judah dug out the foam-ball gun once again and was randomly shooting plants (thankfully he remembered the “don’t-shoot-strangers-rule”) when an squeal of delight filled the quiet room. A little hispanic girl with the beautiful almond-shaped eyes common to children with Down Syndrome ran up to Judah and held out a pudgy, upturned hand.
“Oh, you want to play with this?” Judah brightened up at the chance to make someone else happy with one of his favorite toys and gently helped the little girl place the string-attached ball back into its plastic holder. She didn’t quite understand how to shoot it so he helped her do it once, then twice...and again and again.
Once again I watched in quiet admiration as a wall of prejudice that separates people of differing races and abilities shattered into pieces and two new friends were left standing together. Not only had Judah made a new friend, the aunt caring for this precious girl wandered over and we had a great talk as well...all thanks to that silly toy gun.
It wasn’t long after this family left that another little girl approached Judah with a shy smile revealing sparkling white teeth that contrasted her radiant black skin. Judah showed her how to load and shoot the foam ball and before long, they were chatting and playing together with the endless energy that children have (oh, for just a drop of THAT!). Judah took a break from playing with her just long enough to run up and ask for a sucker (at the dentist, no less!) for himself and his new buddy.
There they stood: a boy as white as the stars in the sky and a girl as black as that starry night. They talked and happily licked at their suckers, oblivious to the remains of the wall of racism that lay in rubble at their feet. I smiled and enjoyed the beauty of people living without prejudice, of friends that unite regardless of age, color or abilities.
Little did I know earlier that day when I hit the snooze on my alarm clock, dreading a long day of appointments, that I would actually be witness to a historic event. I believe that every time people come together despite our differences we become a part of what makes history great. We prove that walls of prejudice rarely ever protect us but rather prevent us from making beautiful friends. And no one models this better than an innocent child.
Sometimes the Berlin wall comes down amidst passionate emotion with the great blow of a hammer.
But other times walls of prejudice come down with just a foam-ball toy gun and a little, shy, innocent smile.