Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Blue Light

I know, I know, the picture from the return trip looks pretty much like the picture of the going. Except it’s raining and I’m going in the opposite direction.

After playing my concert in Natchez, MS last week, I took off for Monroe, LA where my mom is still on the rehab train after her surgery. Looks like she’ll be there for a few more days then we have some hard decisions to make. I appreciate your prayers.

The drive back to Houston was covered in a hard driving rain from Shreveport all the way home. I knew it was coming so I prepared by stopping in Ruston, LA for a late lunch with my good friends, the Bradfords.

When I called them to find a meeting place for lunch, they told me they were just walking into The Blue Light Café. Hmm, that’s funny. Spell correction put that little sign above the “e” in the word café. There, it did it again! Did you see that??

I attended college in Ruston at Louisiana Tech and never ate at The Blue Light ____.
They said it was time. Soul Food at it’s finest.

I made the turns and found myself in a part of Ruston I’d never seen.

Sweet people of all colors filled the place at noon on a Monday. Good food seems to make people happy – at least for a little while.

I sat down and visited with the Bradfords for a while then went to the counter to order. I wrote down my choices on a little white pad of paper and handed it to a nice lady. I could tell she was one of the veterans of the place. I told her I had heard this was the best place in town and I’d come all the way from Houston to eat there – a stretch, but all in good fun.

She told me she had two daughters in Houston and I said, “Well, why don’t you just jump in the car with me and I’ll take you down there?” “Awe honey, I couldn’t do that.” You know the kind of place now?

When they brought my meatloaf, corn and black-eyed peas, I knew I’d come to the right place. This is one of those places you hear about from the locals. This is the kind of place I look for when trying to avoid the regular chain stores on the highway.

The owners of The Blue Light were African American. So were the waiters and the cooks. It made all the difference to how the place felt (like a welcome home from a long journey), how the food tasted (I guarantee you the recipes weren’t written down – a pinch of this and a taste of that) and the general “come one and come all” atmosphere of the place.

The clock turned back in the best possible sense of the phrase. The world was slower and whatever tensions there were in the outside world didn’t show up for lunch that day at The Blue Light.


The race issue has always bothered me. I grew up in the south (North Louisiana) during the turbulent sixties. They didn’t really seem too awfully turbulent to us at the time. Actually, it was pretty quiet. But I was a white kid. What did I know?

The most intense racial issues I had to confront in my naïve childhood were the awkward misunderstandings of (1) why there was a black window and a white window at the one-of–a-kind ice cream stand in the middle of town. I really thought you went to the white window if you wanted vanilla and the black window if you wanted chocolate. True. I promise you. And (2) the unspoken but clearly understood seating arrangement at the movie theater. White people on the floor level and Black in the balcony. I always thought the balcony was the better seat and wanted to sit there.

I know the very statement of these things is a mystery and a horror to some of you.

The only real tension I remember was the night I woke up with the reflection of flames bouncing off my bedroom wall. We lived right across the street from the high school and that particular night, the KKK had decided to have some sort of demonstration in the school yard. I didn’t understand it but it was strange and frightening.

I didn’t intend for this little piece to take this direction and I could go on and on about any number of issues. There are things that have been debated and will continue to be debated. Who am I to attempt to address anyone on this sensitive subject? The very mention of the word “race” pushes so many buttons. It’s now become a defend/attack point in the current presidential election. Sigh.

I just know this. It falls to me and to each one of you who call ourselves followers of the Christ to walk in love, in kindness, gentleness, forgiving one another even as He has forgiven us.

I can’t fix what’s been done but, as the song says “I can change what will be. By living in holiness that the world will see Jesus.”

Play nice, for God’s sake (literally).

Who’s with me?



1 comment:

Debra said...

Good Morning Wayne,
My comment is regarding your mom. Our mom's are special like no other human we encounter in this life. I lost my mom in 2001. She was 65 and I was 45 but I felt like a little girl. I lost a part of myself that day, even though I KNOW my mom is in heaven and we will meet again someday my heart aches to see her face just once more. Cherish each moment you have with your precious mom. You are all in my prayers. Peace be with you and your loved ones. Debbie