"Oh, honey, you're so much better than that!"
Those words were uttered by an elderly African-American woman to a customer at the McDonald's where she worked. She uttered these words upon seeing the swastika tattooed on his hand.
This story is recounted in Jason Byassee's timely article in the August 2017 issue of Sojourners, entitled "Confessions of a Former White Supremacist."
The article tells the story of Vancouver B.C. resident and former white supremacist Tony McAleer and of an organization called Life Without Hate, whose mission he works to advance, that mission being “to inspire individuals and communities to a place of compassion and forgiveness for themselves and for all people.”
Those kind words from a server at McDonald's were the seed that "germinated for years until the man left white nationalism and dedicated himself to helping others leave," writes Byassee.
I commend this article to all to read. In it you will hear about the path that took McAleer into white nationalism and neo-nazi activities and out again.
Reading the article helps illuminate what is behind what McAleer said to Sojourner's magazine: “The hardest thing in the world is to have compassion for those who have no compassion, but those are the people who need it the most.”
McAleer sums up his message and that of Life Without Hate: “We try to help people reconnect with their humanity."
Christians have a mission which is a call to reconciliation. That woman in the McDonald's that day perfectly embodied that mission when, recognizing the humanity of the misguided man before her; seeing the possibility of redemption held out to him, said to him "Oh, honey, you're so much better than that!"
It took a long time, but the seed sown in that moment took root and grew into a healthy plant.
It was the seed of the kingdom of God, which took root in that man.
I'm personally not shocked that there are people who live by hating. I'm continually saddened by it, and I'm angered when hate takes it's toll on others, as it did in Charlottesville, taking the life of Heather Heyer. We have to be unequivocal in condemning the hateful ideology of white supremacy whenever it is expressed.
Hating can give us energy. It's energizing to be "against," to be "oppositional." I know that from observing my own psychological states and by reading the Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, which are a mirror of every psychological state known to humanity.
But hatred is a dead-end. Hatred and condemnation cannot lead us into the Reign of God. But love can. And love is hard. Really hard.
"Oh honey, you're so much better than that!"
Those were godly words, godlike words. She who said these words was filled with the Holy Spirit. I bet she spoke them out of the depths of what she'd learned from her own suffering and her life of prayer.
May what this woman said this day live forever, and help direct our path.
I urge all to read the article. It will give you hope in these very bleak times in the United States of America.