In November 1960, the six years young Ruby Bridges walked into a school in the USA that was all-white. The child, of African-American ancestry, was confronted by a large number of white people spewing death threats, and abuse.
She met this mob every day as she entered, and left school — for months. The situation was such that the Government appointed a team of Federal Marshals to escort her.
Robert Coles watched a report of this, and met Ruby. Over months, Robert and his wife (both of them trying to help) spent time getting to know Ruby, and her family — an impoverished family (her parents “did not even know how to sign their names”).
In “Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians”, a compilation of thoughts from Harvard Academics, Robert (Emeritus Professor) recalls being puzzled by the fact that Ruby was not ruffled at all by what she was facing every day. In fact, one of her Teacher’s told him that Ruby was always “happy” and “comes so cheerfully.”
One day, Robert was told by one of Ruby’s Teachers that she saw Ruby stop a bit before the mob — and as she watched, she saw Ruby’s lips moving. When asked about what she had been telling the people hurling abuse at her, the child said she wasn’t speaking to the people — but “saying a Prayer for them.”
Astonished, Robert asks her why she would want to pray for such people — people who wished her dead. Ruby responds: “Because they need praying for.”
Ruby then goes on to tell Robert that she prayed every day and every night for the baying mob!
“Once a couple of weeks after the first time I mentioned it, I again asked Ruby about this praying. “Ruby, I’m still puzzled . I’m trying to figure out why you think you should….pray for such people.”
“Well,” she replied, “especially it should be me.”
“Why you especially?””
The child of six answers: “Because if you’re the one going through what they’re doing to you, you’re the one who should be praying for them. And then she quoted to me what she had heard in church. The minister said that Jesus went through a lot of trouble and that Jesus said about the people who were causing the trouble, “Forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.” “
H Jackson Brown writes to his son in “The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book”:
“Your religion is what you do when the sermon is over.”