It was early April, 1995. My son Brandon was 10 years old, and my daughter Casey was 6. Excitement was high. We were heading to the San Jose Giants baseball stadium, home of the Single A team for the San Francisco Giants. There we would pick up one of the players (a real live professional baseball player!) and bring him home with us, where he would live during the season.
In preparation for this day, we turned our rarely used living room into Brandon’s new bedroom with an air mattress; we turned his bedroom, with its twin size bed, into an adult bedroom; we stocked the fridge and kitchen cabinets; and we wondered what Brandon and Casey’s new “brother” would be like.
As we pulled up in front of the stadium, the first person we saw was a young and very large African-American man surrounded by luggage, athletic bags, and bats. Brandon said “Oh, no. I hope we don’t get him!”
My heart sank. Why wouldn’t he want him to be our player? Was it because of the color of his skin? Could that possibly be the reason?
Having grown up in Hyde Park, a racially diverse neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, the values of inclusion, diversity, and equality were important to me. Raising my young white children in Silicon Valley, I knew that I had to teach them about the issues of racism and fairness so they would grow up with the same values that I had. I wanted them to be fair, to see humanity and not just skin color, and to know that our whiteness did not make us better than others. And I taught these values by not just talking about them, but by modeling them…or so I thought.
But here we were, in front of the stadium, and I was worried.
I took a deep breath, and asked aloud “Why don’t you want him?”
“Because he won’t fit in my bed!” Brandon exclaimed.
Well. That was a relief. And pretty accurate.
Over the next 19 years, Brandon and Casey had 37 different brothers (along with 4 wives and 7 children) who each lived in our home for a period of one to seven months, and often more than one at a time. They were black, brown, and white; they were from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. Every one of them filled our home with laughter, friendship, and love. But perhaps more importantly, the values of generosity, acceptance, inclusion, and resilience were taught to my children every day by sharing our home, by accepting people of different nationalities and races into our family and into our hearts, and by following our player’s daily baseball performance. (Baseball is a tough game!)
You can teach your values even without Giants.
You can teach generosity and kindness by donating out-grown clothes and toys to various agencies, buying meals for homeless people on the streets, and volunteering your time and energy.
You can teach acceptance by reading about people who succeed and thrive despite their unique physical differences.
You can teach inclusion by inviting children of all colors to your home on play dates.
You can teach equality by reading stories of injustice.
You can teach about love by explaining that it’s okay for a man to love a man, and a woman to love a woman.
You can teach determination by showing that failure is simply the first try.
You can teach respect by listening to others, no matter their age or skin color.
Together, if we all do our share, if we all model giant values, we can teach a generation of children to become open-minded, fair, inclusive, kind adults. I look forward to the more equal world that our kids will then create. Let equality and justice become the norm; let kindness and acceptance become the norm; let our children live in a world that we can only dream of today.