By Gee Scott
Often times when I hear people ask, “Why are they so angry,” I think back to about 30 years ago.
The year is 1990. I’m an eighth grader at Howe Military School in the small Indiana town of the same name. To help with the tuition, I worked as a waiter at the school. Basically, when the students and staff of the school came to eat, I was one of the servers that would be waiting on you.
I took great pride in doing this. As a matter of fact, I worked so hard that I rose to the position of waiting on the superintendent’s table. Colonel Tom Merritt was the superintendent of the school, and it was a pretty big deal to be his waiter.
I have a very clear memory of one particular day. It was a beautiful Sunday, right after chapel. There was a lieutenant colonel visiting from the U.S. Army. He and his wife were dining with Col. Merritt, Mrs. Merritt, and a few others. I brought out all the food. I made sure to pour coffee when they needed it, refill their water, and take care of anything else they needed.
Then I would stand at parade rest (feet shoulder-width apart, and hands placed behind my back) by the head of the table while they ate. About 15 minutes into the meal, the lieutenant colonel says, “Get over here boy and refill my coffee.”
Now understand, I’m 14 years old at the time. I wasn’t really sure, but the way he said that just didn’t feel right. I went over to refill his coffee, and when I was done, he didn’t even acknowledge me. As a matter of fact, he never looked at me the entire time. I headed back over to stand at parade rest. I wanted to cry for some reason, but I was afraid. I was afraid that if I did, I would never be able to be the waiter again. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so bad. I mean, nobody else said anything, so it couldn’t be that bad.
Later that evening I called my dad to tell him what happened. But I didn’t have the courage to tell him. I felt like if I told him, he would get upset and I wouldn’t be a waiter for the superintendent’s table again. So I never said anything. I kept it in.
The next morning at breakfast, before breakfast got started, I saw Mrs. Merritt, the colonel’s wife. I’m standing in line waiting for the battalion to be seated. She gets closer. I’m nervous and I’m afraid I’ve done something wrong.
She steps right up and says, “Scott, give me a hug you. I just want you to know how great I think you are, and how much I love you.” That moment made me feel so good. She never said why she did it, but I knew it was because of what that lieutenant colonel had said.
I’ve never told this story before. It feels good to share and have an emotional moment about that time. I wish that the Colonel and Mrs. Merritt were still here with us so that I could hug her and tell her thank you. I also wish my dad were here so that I could tell him about that moment.
Why do I tell this story? It goes back to that question: Why are they so angry?
It’s not anger. It’s hurt. It’s hurt from racism that has built up inside and people get afraid to let it out, discuss, or think about it. Because they’re worrying what others will think.
Who knows, that lieutenant colonel might not have known what he did to a 14-year-old kid. But I know in my heart that there are so many Mrs. Merritt’s out there among us.
I appreciate you reading, love ya for that, until next time.
Gee Scott discusses the issue on the Ron and Don Show here.