What if we used our commonalities to do good things?

Published 5:29 pm Monday, March 27, 2023

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I’ve had some wonderful days last week at the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, meeting people from all over the country.   Milt and I enjoyed hosting visitors from nine states as far west as Washington State, California, Utah and Nevada, then Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to the east, north to Michigan and as far south as Florida. There were lots of local folks who stopped by too.

In addition to sharing about the history of the underground railroad in Washington, eastern NC, as well as the nation’s underground railroad, we were happy to share the history of all of Washington. Focusing on all the people, groups and cultures here that have contributed to a vibrant history for all to learn from.  We also love learning from our visitors as they share their cultures and history with us.

One of the things I enjoy most is discovering how much we all are alike no matter what our skin colors are, the languages we speak, and the education and culture we received growing up.  We are so much more alike than we think.  As Milt and I sing songs from our childhood to the visitors, (that we later learned were slave songs used to communicate messages about freedom seeking,) we are often amazed that on the other side of the country, east and west, north and south, children sang some of the same songs.  While we could not have known the history behind the songs and meanings then, it is amazing learning it now, and how others knew about it too.

We also loved hearing about the same fun things we had in common.  We all played some of the same games. We all enjoyed making discoveries like finding a penny on the ground, and singing about it, “find a penny pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”  We all had the same experience of a parent pulling your loose teeth with a single string of sewing thread.   Some of us remembered having ‘rabbit ears antenna’ sometimes with tin foil (aluminum foil) on TV sets. In March when NBC showed the Wizard of Oz movie, we all tried to learn the words correctly to “we’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz. He surely is a wonderful wiz, if ever a wiz that was.”  A lot of us remembered Mr. Green Jeans, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Sky King, Blondie and Dagwood and Fractured Fairy Tales.  Some of our senior citizen guests also remembered reading from the Dick and Jane series and buying Luden’s Cherry Cough Drops to eat in class as candy even though none of us had a cough.

We laughed about the ‘Thum’ liquid that got painted on the thumbs of kids who sucked their thumbs by parents hoping to break the habit, and we all remembered our mom’s yelling out to us, ‘don’t slam the door, I got a cake baking in the oven!”  And if you remember Dash, Trend and Rinso Blue, then most likely you too may remember freshly laundered sheets and clothing hanging on a clothesline, and sometimes hiding in the sheets during a game of hide and seek.

The younger generations who visit us have their own wonderful memories that bind them together.

Yep, we all are more alike than we are different. What if we used the things we all have in common that are good, decent and gracious as glue to hold the fabric of our society together?  What if we could do so many more good things in this world if we realized no matter where we live, the colors of skin we live in, the dignity God gave us all, could make for a life where we all are celebrated?   What if?   If you’ve read my column for a while, you know that I am about celebrating all people with dignity and respect.  I believe we really are better and stronger together. Just imagine, what if?

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.