By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
The movie, Hidden Figures, moved me to tears. It tells the story of three female, African-American mathematicians who played little known but vital roles in the development of the United States space program. In one of my favorite scenes, Al Harrison, the man in charge, studies an extremely complex computation written out on the chalkboard, figures which answer perplexing problems about rocket trajectory. After studying the chalkboard for several minutes, Harrison addresses the room filled with employees asking who is responsible for the figures. Katherine Johnson reluctantly speaks up. She’s the newest employee in the office. She has no security clearance. She’s the only woman in the room, and she’s African-American! At first, she’s not certain whether she’ll be punished or rewarded. Eventually, Harrison recognizes the gifts that Katherine brings to the program and begins to include her as an equal in the office (including desegregating the restrooms and the office coffee pot).
How often we miss the treasures all around us, hidden in plain view, obscured only by our own biases! African-American women solved the riddles of space travel. Unwelcomed in his home country of Germany, a Jew named Einstein revealed scientific mysteries that revolutionized modem science. Coach Bryant saw the talent of young African-American men where too many others only saw skin color.
Jesus opens our eyes. He tells the story. A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves, was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two men who knew all the right things about God came upon the man, crossed the road to avoid him, and went on their way. We might make a hundred excuses for them, but they knew God’s command to love others as we do ourselves, a law they willfully ignored. Then, along comes the Samaritan, an enemy of Jews, who believed the wrong things about God. In spite of enmity and “bad” theology, the Samaritan loves the robbery victim and helps. What an unlikely hero!
God, please cure us of the blindness created by our own prejudice. Open our eyes to see all the beauty of new neighbors hidden in plain sight.