Skip to content

DEI (Diversity-Equity-Inclusion)

Mary Anne Doty

Sharon and I hosted Mary Anne Doty for a 5-day visit this past week.  I was one of Mary Anne’s pastors at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon, where I served as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Christian Education.  It was my second call.  My two sons, Stephen and Jason, were born in Medford.  Their older sister, Robin, was born in Riverside, CA, and was about to turn 3 when we moved to Medford.  Among the joys of serving that church, one of the biggest was to be able to enroll Robin in the pre-school program at the church.  Mary Anne was the Director of the Pre-School program.  I especially loved the daily commute to the church, because Robin and I could enjoy endless conversations together.  We talked about all sorts of topics, anything that struck our curiosity.  One memorable conversation began with the question, “So Robin, in what ways are people the same?”  Robin proceeded to name and identify the parts of the human body, moving on to emotions of happiness and anger, laughter and tears, and so on.  I then asked her “in what ways are people different?”  As we arrived at the church, she was still adding to the list of differences.  And when we got out of the car, Robin blurted out, “Dad, there are many more differences to people than similarities!”  

My ministry has taken my family to a variety of diverse communities, the most challenging being the Presbyterian Church on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, my third call.  We moved there from Medford in the Winter of 1972 and Robin was 4 and a half when we enrolled her in the Head Start Program on the Reservation.  When her mom and I went down to the Community Center to pick her up at the end of the first day of Head Start, we walked into a large empty gymnasium, wondering where all the children and staff were.  Following the sound of voices, we located everyone at the far end of the gymnasium, gathered in a corner.  We walked up to the tight circle of folk gathered around—the adult staff standing in the outer ring and all the children seated on the floor.  Finally, we located Robin seated on the floor right in the middle of the circle, with everyone hovering over her.  Robin was reading a book to the class.  And everyone—the children and the adult teachers and staff—were speechless and amazed.  How could a 4 year old be reading?!  The Director of the Head Start Program spotted us and took us aside and said to us in a worried tone, “We can’t have your daughter in our program.  She is already reading!”  We responded to her:  “Yes, our daughter started reading at the age of 3; and we want her to be enrolled in your program because it is equally important for Robin to make friends, especially since our family is new to the community.”   

At the age of 3, in the Pre-School at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Mary Anne Doty was the one who discovered that Robin was reading.  On this trip, Mary Anne reminded us that Robin was a shy and quiet child at that age and that she found solace in reading by herself, in a quiet corner away from the other children.  Until Mary Anne informed us, we had no idea that Robin was already able to read.

By the time Robin entered the 3rd grade on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, her fellow classmates whom she met and befriended in the Head Start Program, had begun to pick on her.  As the months passed, it escalated to where they were calling her names, bullying her, and chasing her home from school.  Robin couldn’t wait for the day when we left Warm Springs.  The day finally came upon my completion of 6 years serving as pastor of the church.  Today, Robin is a conference speaker on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  She draws from her life experience—a mixed race child and her experience on the reservation. 

In the summer of 2017, 40 years after leaving the reservation, my family decided to return to the Northwest, to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, for a family vacation.  We were warmly received by our former congregation.  And here is what Robin wrote about the trip, a trip she thought she would never make:  “Our first night back on the reservation, we went to the cafe at the resort. Our waitress looked familiar, but I honestly didn’t really want to know if it was someone I went to school with.  Later that night, my brothers texted me that our waitress was Doneta and they were drinking at the bar and I should join them.  When I came down, Doneta came to our table and took our drink order.  She introduced herself and said she remembered me. I smiled (sort of) and said I remembered her too.  She told me a little of her life. Two kids, single mom.  She had gotten off the reservation but ended up back there to be close to family. She gave me a big hug and said it was nice to see me again.  I had a shift inside as a result. I realized that I was carrying around resentment for 40 years for a kid who made kid choices. I realized that it wasn’t doing me any good to keep carrying that around.  We are 50 years old and have much more interesting things to care about.  It let me release those icky inside feelings and instead feel compassion for her and her life.” 

Following our Chinn Family Christmas in 2015, hosted by Robin in her home, here is what she posted on Facebook: “Christmas celebration at our house: 31 people, 3 dogs; 6 Muslims, 3 Catholics, 1 Buddhist, 21 Protestants; 1 Australian, 1 Pakistani, 5 Iranians, 1 Mexican, 7 Japanese, 3 African American, 2 Taiwanese, 6 Caucasians, 18 Chinese. I love my diverse family”

Mary Anne Doty’s recent visit brought back all these memories of Robin.  And who knows how much of an impact her conversations with her dad on the daily commute to the Pre-School Program at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon contributed to the beautiful daughter I love and respect?

4 thoughts on “DEI (Diversity-Equity-Inclusion)”

  1. Cal,
    If paying homage to Jason, Steph and Robin was not earlier on your bucket list, it’s grand that it found it’s way to the intention and spirit of your Blogs.

    There is a pattern. All three kids benefitted consistently from quality face time en route to someplace ordinary. In “idle chat” you inspired them to activate their senses, inner feelings, thoughts and speech. Through this developmental training, they each overcame serious obstacles and did not become angry, destructive individuals. They followed their father, their Man of the Cloth and became healers and teachers in their own style.

    A potentially wasteful ride for kids in the backseat of a car with access to commercial videos for entertainment and distraction now more the norm?


    1. Gwen, as always, your comments are appreciated, especially since they not only encourage me to keep at this, but also challenge me to dig deeper. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *