The Things We Carry
- Published: Tuesday, 22 March 2016 20:50
Tim Boyd – USA
Tim Boyd during the opening of the School of the Wisdom at Adyar in January 2016
Some time ago a friend of mine shared something wondrous with me. It was a paperweight. One of those clear plastic things that contain an object inside, something intended to be interesting or inspiring. I have one on my office desk now that contains a simple business card. The card reads “Clarence A. Jones Attorney and Counsellor at Law”, and has the downtown Los Angeles address of his office. To anyone but me it is plain and without meaning, fit merely to hold some papers in place. Of course for me, it is a different story. It was my grandfather's business card, and though he died shortly before I was born, it is rich in meaning. It is the profession and the address that convey something extraordinary to someone who knows. The key piece of missing information is that my grandfather was African American. He was the first black graduate to receive a law degree from Ohio State University and the first to do business at a downtown Los Angeles address – the one on his business card.
For most people today the significance of such accomplishments is lost on them. In today's world it is accepted as normal and natural that anyone should be able to study and work wherever they are qualified to do so. However through most of the 1900's this was not the case. Racial discrimination, de jure and de facto, were the norm for the nation. The level of sacrifice, strength of character and will that were required to make the simple information on that card a reality, speak to me across the generations. On some of my more demanding days I have found myself looking at the paperweight and the card inside and being reminded that my lot is not so tough. It is remarkable to me that the mere thought of someone who has accomplished great things brings perspective and strength - even a person I never met.