Knock And It Shall Be Opened by Trevor Soderstrum Dr. John Hayes had asked if I could walk this gentleman to his car. His steps were no longer steady after a lifetime of service to the church, but his grasp on my arm was still vice-like, despite being in his late 80s. He had come to Emory University to visit with some of “his children.” I guess you have the right to call men and women in their fifties and sixties, that you have mentored, that, and past a certain point age wise, almost everyone is a child to you. A ring of white curly hair encircled his head like a crown. He had that easy smile that only comes with comes with age. He had found God, or God had found him on the battlefields of Europe. It was there that he also discovered what it was like to be treated like a man. He was given dignity and respect from the people that viewed him as a liberator and seemingly failed to notice the color of his skin. He came home to a country that often overlooked his uniform and could not get past the color of his skin. He found a wife and served a church that paid him just enough to struggle every month to get by. There were times he got paid in jams, jellies, and preserves until he grew sick at the sight of them. He laughingly joked that the Lord might have said “In His mansion there are many rooms...”, but Jesus and he were going to have a meeting if he opened up a cupboard and there were jars of preserves there. Every Monday, on his day off, rain or shine, in stifling heat or freezing cold, he walked to the county seat. There were weeks he had a cold, should have been home in bed, probably had more pressing things to do, or just didn’t feel like it. Yet, he made that walk. Every week he walked to the county courthouse, up the steps, across the granite floors, and into the clerk’s office. Even though the clerks changed over time, new faces replacing the old, there was always a disdain in their eyes. While he stood at the counter, they deliberately took their time before grudgingly getting out of their chair and walking over to the counter. Even though he was a man, had served his country with honor, they called him “boy.” That word still burned almost half a century later. “Boy, what do you want?” His request was always the same. He wanted to register to vote. After a dozen times, conversation stopped, and that piece of paper was silently pushed across the counter. Written on it were a few sentences from the Declaration of Independence. In order to vote, you had to pass a literacy test. A person had to read a sentence or two of it to prove that they were competent enough to vote, had the mental capacity to make an informed decision. At least that was the claim. Everybody knew better. It was the Declaration of Independence with one small caveat. There was a grammatical mistake in it. If he read it right, the way it was on paper, the clerk would look at him with disgust and say, “Boy, don’t you know the document this nation was founded on?” He would promptly be rejected. If he overlooked the grammatical mistake and simply repeated that section of the Declaration of Independence, the clerk would get the same look of disgust on his face and say, “Boy, don’t you know how to read?” He would promptly be rejected. He would put his hat on his head, thank the clerk, leave the office, walk across the granite floor, down the steps, and the several miles back home. This happened week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. He grew old somewhere along that walk. The miles seemed to get a little long. The steps a little harder. Yet, every week he made that walk every single week. There were times the clerk asked him why he even bothered. Please take a moment and put yourself in his worn out shoes. Try to feel the stifling heat of the South, the rain soaking your clothes, the unforgiving wind, and the bone-chilling cold of winter. Feel his cough, his weariness in the legs, his joints growing more unforgiving with each step. Now, internalize the cuts to his soul. The word “boy” spat at you. The humiliation of having your God given rights rejected because of the color of your skin. The hostility in their eyes. How many of us would stop making that walk after a few weeks, a handful of months? Could we even make it through one year? Then one day, thanks to a man named Lyndon Baines Johnson and several justices of the Supreme Court, he walked up the steps, across the granite floor, into the clerk’s office, and that paper wasn’t there anymore. They had no legal right to say no. He walked home that week with the right to vote and he never missed an election after that. For some unknown reason, he asked me if I knew what his favorite Bible verse was. I shook my head no. It was Matthew 7:7. “Ask and it shall be given onto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door shall be opened to you.” As he got into his car, he said, “You will never understand that verse until you have spent a lifetime rapping with bloody knuckles on a locked door that will not open. There are still so many locked doors out there that I am afraid I will never see opened.” He died a few weeks later. Some of those doors are still locked to this day and others we have just discovered. Whenever I hear some spoiled, pampered jackass talk about how voting makes no difference, how all politicians are the same, I think of him. Thanks to him and countless others, these cynical individuals don’t know what real locked doors are. The only ones they experience are the ones they have allowed to remain locked. Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, the environment, too many people’s lives made more difficult until it seems like the door to the American dream is being closed and you can hear the latch and bolt being pulled shut. Politicians might all look the same, but there are differences. They might be small, but there are differences. If you walk enough miles, rap on enough doors, even after exhaustion sets in, eventually those politicians will hear the knocking, do the right thing, and open that door. Vote… Vote… Do the right thing… Vote.
 Knock And It Shall Be Opened by Trevor Soderstrum Dr. John Hayes had asked if I could walk this gentleman to his car. His steps were no longer steady after a lifetime of service to the church, but his grasp on my arm was still vice-like, despite being in his late 80s. He had come to Emory University to visit with some of “his children.” I guess you have the right to call men and women in their fifties and sixties, that you have mentored, that, and past a certain point age wise, almost everyone is a child to you. A ring of white curly hair encircled his head like a crown. He had that easy smile that only comes with comes with age. He had found God, or God had found him on the battlefields of Europe. It was there that he also discovered what it was like to be treated like a man. He was given dignity and respect from the people that viewed him as a liberator and seemingly failed to notice the color of his skin. He came home to a country that often overlooked his uniform and could not get past the color of his skin. He found a wife and served a church that paid him just enough to struggle every month to get by. There were times he got paid in jams, jellies, and preserves until he grew sick at the sight of them. He laughingly joked that the Lord might have said “In His mansion there are many rooms...”, but Jesus and he were going to have a meeting if he opened up a cupboard and there were jars of preserves there. Every Monday, on his day off, rain or shine, in stifling heat or freezing cold, he walked to the county seat. There were weeks he had a cold, should have been home in bed, probably had more pressing things to do, or just didn’t feel like it. Yet, he made that walk. Every week he walked to the county courthouse, up the steps, across the granite floors, and into the clerk’s office. Even though the clerks changed over time, new faces replacing the old, there was always a disdain in their eyes. While he stood at the counter, they deliberately took their time before grudgingly getting out of their chair and walking over to the counter. Even though he was a man, had served his country with honor, they called him “boy.” That word still burned almost half a century later. “Boy, what do you want?” His request was always the same. He wanted to register to vote. After a dozen times, conversation stopped, and that piece of paper was silently pushed across the counter. Written on it were a few sentences from the Declaration of Independence. In order to vote, you had to pass a literacy test. A person had to read a sentence or two of it to prove that they were competent enough to vote, had the mental capacity to make an informed decision. At least that was the claim. Everybody knew better. It was the Declaration of Independence with one small caveat. There was a grammatical mistake in it. If he read it right, the way it was on paper, the clerk would look at him with disgust and say, “Boy, don’t you know the document this nation was founded on?” He would promptly be rejected. If he overlooked the grammatical mistake and simply repeated that section of the Declaration of Independence, the clerk would get the same look of disgust on his face and say, “Boy, don’t you know how to read?” He would promptly be rejected. He would put his hat on his head, thank the clerk, leave the office, walk across the granite floor, down the steps, and the several miles back home. This happened week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. He grew old somewhere along that walk. The miles seemed to get a little long. The steps a little harder. Yet, every week he made that walk every single week. There were times the clerk asked him why he even bothered. Please take a moment and put yourself in his worn out shoes. Try to feel the stifling heat of the South, the rain soaking your clothes, the unforgiving wind, and the bone- chilling cold of winter. Feel his cough, his weariness in the legs, his joints growing more unforgiving with each step. Now, internalize the cuts to his soul. The word “boy” spat at you. The humiliation of having your God given rights rejected because of the color of your skin. The hostility in their eyes. How many of us would stop making that walk after a few weeks, a handful of months? Could we even make it through one year? Then one day, thanks to a man named Lyndon Baines Johnson and several justices of the Supreme Court, he walked up the steps, across the granite floor, into the clerk’s office, and that paper wasn’t there anymore. They had no legal right to say no. He walked home that week with the right to vote and he never missed an election after that. For some unknown reason, he asked me if I knew what his favorite Bible verse was. I shook my head no. It was Matthew 7:7. “Ask and it shall be given onto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door shall be opened to you.” As he got into his car, he said, “You will never understand that verse until you have spent a lifetime rapping with bloody knuckles on a locked door that will not open. There are still so many locked doors out there that I am afraid I will never see opened.” He died a few weeks later. Some of those doors are still locked to this day and others we have just discovered. Whenever I hear some spoiled, pampered jackass talk about how voting makes no difference, how all politicians are the same, I think of him. Thanks to him and countless others, these cynical individuals don’t know what real locked doors are. The only ones they experience are the ones they have allowed to remain locked. Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, the environment, too many people’s lives made more difficult until it seems like the door to the American dream is being closed and you can hear the latch and bolt being pulled shut. Politicians might all look the same, but there are differences. They might be small, but there are differences. If you walk enough miles, rap on enough doors, even after exhaustion sets in, eventually those politicians will hear the knocking, do the right thing, and open that door. Vote… Vote… Do the right thing… Vote.