And Extraordinary Woman

Sunday and Monday an amazing thing will happen in my country.

The body of a woman whose one, quiet act of defiance sparked the civil rights movement in the United States will lie in repose in the Capitol Rotunda. This high honor has been almost exclusively reserved for government officials and military leaders. She will be the first woman to ever do so and only the second African American.

I was elated to read that in the paper this morning. Here was a common person who never set out to be a hero. One afternoon in 1955, weary from her job as a seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man who wanted. The segregation laws at the time required blacks to yield their seats to any white person standing and move to the back of the bus. She simply refused. “The real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long.” For her simple protest she was jailed and fined $14.00. That sparked a boycott of the bus system in Montgomery Alabama that lasted for more than year and that launched the modern civil rights movement that brought greater equality in our country across racial lines.

What a great reminder of the avalanche of events that can come from one common person’s passion for justice and their willingness to risk themselves in doing so! Mostly people just quietly go along even when they know something isn’t right. I admire Rosa Parks for standing up to the status quo by remaining in her seat that day. Now she looks like a hero. I can’t imagine what she looked like then. Surely most of the whites would have turned on her for breaking the law and delaying their bus ride home. The bus driver probably screamed at her, and even some of the blacks might have called to her to just move and not make any trouble.

But she wouldn’t be denied. She paid for it then. But in doing so she opened a door of freedom that others have streamed through with joy. It’s not easy being the one to expose the king’s nakedness, but a little bit of truth goes a long way.

Our culture rarely honors those who truly deserve it. On Sunday and Monday this week we’ll get it exactly right. A 42-year old common woman, wearied of the abuse her people suffered, did what was in her heart to do and helped transform a nation. Hopefully her example will inspire many of us to go and do likewise!

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6 Comments
  1. Fran October 30, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    It is interesting that the subject of my church’s Sunday sermon was injustice. Rosa Park’s picture was part of a video collage portraying the effect of injustice around the world and through recent history. I am sure that it was meant to provoke a response that would goad people into action but I was left wondering why there was no mention of self-examination for the seeds of injustice that we might find in our own hearts.

  2. Fran October 30, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    It is interesting that the subject of my church’s Sunday sermon was injustice. Rosa Park’s picture was part of a video collage portraying the effect of injustice around the world and through recent history. I am sure that it was meant to provoke a response that would goad people into action but I was left wondering why there was no mention of self-examination for the seeds of injustice that we might find in our own hearts.

  3. Steve November 2, 2005 at 4:20 am

    "It’s not easy being the one to expose the king’s nakedness, but a little bit of truth goes a long way."

    Only the Truth really sets us free and it can truly be very costly to stand for it. There are a lot of would be kings that need to understand that they are just as naked as the rest of us yet the good news is the robes of righteousness are not something that we have to earn but are freely given by the one who made the ultimate stand against falsehood. He exposed the darkness of our nakedness by shining an incomparable light of unselfishness and unconditional love, went about the business that He was sent here to do, the work of our redemption, and then went back to His throne with the exhortation for us to tell the world the good news and invite them to sit down and rest beside Him. He truly established not only civil rights for us all but spiritual rights. I imagine that the knowledge of that fact had a lot to do with what went on in the heart of Rosa Parks when she took her stand, or should I say took her seat, on the bus and by His side.

  4. Steve November 2, 2005 at 7:20 am

    "It’s not easy being the one to expose the king’s nakedness, but a little bit of truth goes a long way."

    Only the Truth really sets us free and it can truly be very costly to stand for it. There are a lot of would be kings that need to understand that they are just as naked as the rest of us yet the good news is the robes of righteousness are not something that we have to earn but are freely given by the one who made the ultimate stand against falsehood. He exposed the darkness of our nakedness by shining an incomparable light of unselfishness and unconditional love, went about the business that He was sent here to do, the work of our redemption, and then went back to His throne with the exhortation for us to tell the world the good news and invite them to sit down and rest beside Him. He truly established not only civil rights for us all but spiritual rights. I imagine that the knowledge of that fact had a lot to do with what went on in the heart of Rosa Parks when she took her stand, or should I say took her seat, on the bus and by His side.

  5. Trent T November 2, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    Someone found Rosa Parks’ mug shot in a drawer of the sheriff’s office– They published it in the Washington Post, and probably you can find it online–

    She is holding the sign with the numbers on it, and is neatly dressed in a black outfit with a black cap and white flower. The most striking thing about the picture was her eyes. She had a fed-up and determined look on her face the day of the photo…

  6. Trent T November 2, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Someone found Rosa Parks’ mug shot in a drawer of the sheriff’s office– They published it in the Washington Post, and probably you can find it online–

    She is holding the sign with the numbers on it, and is neatly dressed in a black outfit with a black cap and white flower. The most striking thing about the picture was her eyes. She had a fed-up and determined look on her face the day of the photo…

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