Strangers Who Restore Broken Dreams

Faith SandlerRacism, Words of Faith

Today is Juneteenth, now a federal holiday but long a day of remembrance of emancipation from slavery.

Yesterday, I heard a story about a boy whose schooling in Daytona Beach, Florida ended after 7th grade. It was 1914 and though slavery had ended 51 years before, much remained mired in oppression. Schools were racially segregated and horribly unequal. For this 13-year old there was no next educational step available in his hometown.

His family found a high school in Jacksonville that would take him. At 13, he stood at the train depot with his ticket and luggage, waving as his family slipped from view. Moments later he was told that he would have to pay a fare for luggage as well. He had no money, sat atop his bags and cried.

An older Black man in overalls came by and asked the boy why he was crying. The boy told him the story. The man walked on. But on his way he paid the luggage fee and left the station.

Howard Thurman dedicated his 1979 autobiography, With Head and Heart, in this way:

To the stranger in the railroad station in Daytona Beach
who restored my broken dream sixty-five years ago.

Howard Thurman graduated high school and continued his education at Morehouse University, Rochester Theological Seminary and Haverford College. His professional career included professorships and chaplaincies at Morehouse, Spelman, Howard, and Boston universities.  Author, philosopher, theologian, mystic, educator and civil rights leader, Dr. Thurman continued learning and teaching until his death in 1981.

About the same time that Dr. Thurman published his autobiography dedicated to an anonymous person who quietly helped, I was a college student leaving home in St. Louis to get to college outside San Bernardino, California on a 48-hour Greyhound. Six years ago, I wrote about this experience ( !). I too found myself only part way to my goal, without the money or family nearby to solve a problem, and in tears. For all the years since, the lesson that I learned on that bus when the other riders passed a hat to support me has never faded from my memory.

Dr.Thurman and his luggage arrived safely in Jacksonville, Florida. I also made it to school nourished in so many ways. Each of us come to the later years of our careers remembering those moments vividly. And each day of the year, Scholarship Foundation students are able to do what at some point seemed impossible, thanks to a micro-grant, advising support, interest-free loan, or scholarship grant made to them by people they may never meet face to face, whose names they may not ever know. Gifts to The Scholarship Foundation are powerful. If you have supported The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, you have also been a stranger who restores broken dreams.

And there’s nothing more beautiful or powerful than that.

– Faith Sandler