During my first year at Chicago Theological Seminary, I lived in one of the seminary’s dormitories. One afternoon at 5:00 I left my dorm room and walked down to the dormitory kitchen, located in the basement. This kitchen served all the students who lived in that dorm. We each had our own cupboard and cooked our own food. That evening I went downstairs to cook myself a quick supper.
When I walked into the kitchen, I noticed a middle-aged African-American man cooking pigs’ feet at the stove. His presence surprised me because I didn’t recognize him. Chicago Theological was a diverse mix of students, about one-third African American and two-thirds white, about half women and half men, some gay or lesbian and some straight, from lots of different denominations: National Baptist, Missionary Baptist, UCC, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and others, including one Mennonite, which was me. The seminary was small, however, and by this time in the academic year, I thought I knew every student. Yet I had never seen this man before.
He and I were the only people in the kitchen. When I entered, he turned around from his work at the stove, glanced at me, then abruptly said: “You have it in you. I can tell.” Then he whirled back to stir his pot of boiling pigs’ feet.
He offered me no greeting. He didn’t tell me his name and didn’t ask for my name. He engaged in no social chit-chat. He only said two sentences: “You have it in you. I can tell.”
- 1 Samuel 16:1 - 13