Jesus said, "Treat others like you want to be treated." Ken Reinhardt learned that verse as a young boy, and in 1957, he had a special opportunity to practice that truth.
Ken was a student at Little Rock Central High when nine black students, known as The Little Rock Nine, were given permission to attend the previously all white school. If you know your history, you know this was a tumultuous time in our country. The governor of Arkansas had soldiers block the door to the school. The President of the United States had other soldiers escort the students to class and stand watch over them during the day.
Most of the students at LRCH treated the nine black students in hateful ways. They said and did hurtful things. Ken was one of a handful of students who had the courage to befriend his black classmates, and he did so because he had learned early on that all of God's children deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of color or creed.
"It wasn't an easy time — in fact, it was a scary time! I knew I was doing the right thing, though. I couldn't imagine being unkind to my black classmates."
"Why Did Grandpa Cry?" (Cathy Werling, 2017 Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes) tells the story of Ken's friendship with the Little Rock Nine. Written for children, this simple little book will challenge you and your children to think about how you treat people who are different from you, and about the impact your friendship can have as you live out your faith in a world that continues to be polarized in so many ways.
On a personal note, in the late 70's and early 80's, Ken and his wife Judy were members of my church, St. Matthews Baptist, where they taught a young couples Sunday School class. Ken and Judy's influence lives on in my life, as well as in the lives of many other young people who had the privilege of knowing them and sitting under their teaching.
David Garrard is minister to children at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisiville.