Buck Murphy was walking down the street in Whiteville, Tennessee in the late 1950s when a white man yelled at him, “How’s that jailbird son of yours doing?” It was a delicate subject in the segregated South—Buck’s son Curtis had been arrested as part of the Nashville sit-ins, which aimed to integrate the city’s restaurants and lunch counters. Buck tried to answer the man’s heckling by explaining that his son was doing fine, but that didn’t stop the man. “Where is he?” the man taunted, “Is he still in the Nashville jail?”
Now there were many reasons for the Murphys to be concerned about their son’s activism. Of course, they believed segregation was an evil and they had suffered its many effects, but they also didn’t want anything to happen to their boy who was going to college, which itself had already required so much sacrifice and hard work. They feared reprisals there at home. Maybe they even worried that Curtis was trying to change too much too quickly. But in that moment, challenged by that bully who mocked his son, Buck hardened that thing which all children want from their parents—true support. “Wherever he is,” Buck said firmly, “I am too.”
Hearing about this a few days later, his son would remark that he never felt so close to his father. It supported and encouraged him when the world was, in a very real and physical way, trying to deter him from his important and pioneering civil rights work.
Your kids are going to challenge you. They are going to make choices that scare you—that possibly even endanger what you or they have built. People are going to doubt them. People are going to criticize them. Maybe you, yourself, doubt the wisdom of their choices. And?
Where they are, you must be too.