My parents had stopped for lunch at a roadside diner in southern Illinois in the early 1960s.

I was eating my hamburger and reading a small sign on the wall that said, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

I wondered why a business would want to lose customers by refusing service to anyone.

A few months later, I was swimming in the city pool in Cairo, Illinois.

Black kids stood outside the chain-link fence on that sweltering day, looking longingly at the cool water just a few feet away.

God didn't want the races to mix, we were told.

I've noticed that we often blame our sins on God.

Only whites allowed.

When I was in the Army -- 1970-71 -- we were told not to wear our uniforms when we traveled.

Too many people hated us and the Army didn't want trouble.

A guy I knew, who was one year removed from a college campus, had gone down to the University of Texas, hoping to meet young women.

At a dance, a woman, noticing his military haircut and glasses, walked up to him, smiled and whispered, "I hope they send you to Vietnam and you get killed."

I think about things like that when I listen to the arguments against a fairness ordinance in Daviess County.

Prejudice is prejudice no matter who it's against -- blacks, soldiers or gays.

I'm sure there are things about the ordinance that I don't understand.

It just seems to me that discrimination is wrong, no matter who is on the receiving end.

My mama taught Sunday school for more than 40 years.

And she told us that Jesus said we should love every person -- even those who hated us.

Not easy, she said.

But it's what Jesus said.

And mama always told us to put ourselves in the other person's shoes.

Think about how our actions would make them feel.

And treat them the way we wanted them to treat us.

So, if I'm wrong about these words, don't blame me.

Blame my mama.

Because she taught me well.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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