Set Aside Fear and Be Not Afraid
By Amanda Hudson
When we put out a call to priests of the diocese to tell us about their experiences with racism, Father Christopher Kuhn shared a good story about his grandfather, Jimmy.
As a child, Jimmy and his sister regularly picked up coal that had fallen from the steam engines that went by on the train tracks near their home. The family was very poor, and they used the coal for heating and cooking.
Unfortunately, the men who policed the tracks did not take time to find out why the children risked injury to get the coal. They simply beat up Jimmy and his siblings in a quest to keep them away from the trains.
“My grandfather Jimmy had a lifelong dislike of police officers of any kind ever after this time in his life,” Father Kuhn said. “He would even get into fights with them or try to lose them out in Iowa where he later lived ... . He even asked that no police direct traffic for his funeral! This shows me that even good people can develop a great anger and distrust of the police after some bad experiences. I can imagine my grandfather acting in just the same way as some of the young black men we hear about on the news.”
At the trains, the children would ask the porters for leftover food from the dining cars. Those men, who were black, were always kind to them. Jimmy always had a soft spot in his heart for black people and went out of his way to hire young black men to work at his Iowa furniture store after he was an adult.
“My mother remembers the young black men joining them for dinner and becoming part of the family,” Father Kuhn said. “One especially treasured black employee, named Harvey Rucker, became especially close, and my grandfather was pleased to employ him and even help him go to college. My mother tells me that Jimmy lost business because he insisted on employing black men at his business.”
We all are affected to varying degrees by our childhood experiences and impressions. Sometimes we don’t even know why we feel a certain way in our attraction to, or repulsion from, particular people or groups of people. 
Whether or not we remember the sources of our fears and anxieties, our loves and our hates, as we grow into adulthood we are smart to take them all to God and start to deal with them. We are, after all, responsible for our actions. 
Feelings can be powerful, but what we do with them forms our character and, you might say, our consciences and even our souls. Should our feelings be detrimental to our, or others’ wellbeing, the responsible thing would be to seek help from professionals who have experience assisting people to overcome their burdensome pasts. And as any 12-step program teaches, we have to recognize and acknowledge our inner dilemmas and demons before we can face them and change for the better.
People don’t wake up one morning and decide they are going to hate whole groups of people because they are of a different race, gender or age. Hating people based on their job also is not likely to be a conscious decision. 
Hate generally grows out of fear — whether it is our personal fear or a fear that is passed on from generation to generation. We all have to be on guard against the influence of the fears of others and aware of any automatic distrust of some people. 
We all have to be watchful because we all are vulnerable to evil. Fear opens an inner door to evil influences that must be resisted to keep our fears from becoming irrational and dangerous.
Jesus didn’t repeatedly say “Do not be afraid” just because fear is an icky feeling. Fear can too easily grow into hatred.
The good news is that love, with God’s help, can help us see the humanity of the hated person. And that glimpse can bring new blessings to both us and them.
Let us resist our fears, figure out how to put them into perspective and actively embrace God’s promptings instead. 
May we follow Jesus and be not afraid by bringing our fears before Him and asking for His assistance and His perspective.