Jackie Gingrich Cushman

“You are born alone and you die alone.  Don’t dump on anyone else for your decisions.  You’re a big girl and you make them yourself,” was the quote that I remembered at the end of the night.  These were words from a Jewish great grandmother based on more than 90 years of living.  Not stated as a cliché, but heartfelt and serious.

Good advice.

It reminds us that, in the end, no matter what, we have to be comfortable with who we are, with who we have become.  We have to be comfortable in our own skin.

Recently, my kindergartener used the phrase “the man in the black skin,” in reference to the person he was talking about.

This was a description. Not a derogatory statement or a put down, as it might have been in generations past, but a simple descriptive statement.

As if he had said, “the man in the red shirt.”

After reflection, I realize the two descriptive phrases are not quite the same. 

“The man in the black skin” is not able to take off his black skin and put on a skin of another color, while “the man in the red shirt” can easily change shirts.  While my kindergartener sees the color of a person’s skin as a simple attribute, it is one that cannot be easily changed by dye, diet, or a new outfit.    

This makes skin color inherently different.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was 39 when he was assassinated in 1968, two years younger than I am now.  It fills me with sorrow to think of his wife and children left behind, and the work that he could have accomplished.

It also leaves me in awe of a man who accomplished so much in his all-too-short life.

Dr. King not only dared to dream that our nation would be one where “all men are created equal;” – Dr. King also provided us with a picture of what that dream would look like:

“All of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’"

This past week, I attended the opening of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.  The organization’s Web site notes that the American Jewish Committee “is a national advocacy organization that works to build bridges of understanding between ethnic, religious and national groups around the world. The Atlanta Chapter produces a film festival because we believe that film is one of the best ways to tell stories and stories are the best way to share experiences.”

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.