In the late ’60s, during this country’s most challenging times with racism, a Black couple and their two young sons moved to an all-white street called Massachusetts Avenue, in an all-white neighborhood called Libbytown in Portland.

One day, two men knocked on the door of our family’s house. They asked my father, Tommy Nee, if he would sign a petition to have the Black family removed from our neighborhood. My father stepped outside, grabbed the petition, ripped it up and told those men that if they or anyone ever tried to do something like that again or bothered that family in any way, that they would have to answer to him. He then went down to the Joneses’ house, and told Mr. and Mrs. Jones that if anyone ever harassed them or their children, to come talk to him, and he would take care of the problem.

My father never told me that story. While leaving a medical call I was on at a nursing home, I noticed Mrs. Jones’ name on a door. When I opened the door, I was greeted with a huge smile and a loving hug from Mrs. Jones. She then told me that story and how much it affected their lives knowing that they could be loved, respected and safe in that neighborhood. When I left, she said, “I love you, my boy.” And I told her I loved her, too.

I asked my father about the story the next day. I asked him why I had never heard that story. His response was that he never thought anything of it. he said that some bad people were trying to bother some good people, so that’s why he did what he did. He never saw it as Black and white. He just saw it as good and bad.

Sammy Jones was one of my very first friends and one of my dearest friends to this day. We consider each other brothers, as do my siblings with Sammy. Sammy was able to walk into anybody’s house on Massachusetts Avenue and be greeted with a hug and a smile, even more so than the rest of the kids growing up. Everyone, from every school, religion or neighborhood, knew and loved Sammy Jones. To this day, Sammy is one of the most popular and loved men to ever come out of Massachusetts Avenue and Libbytown.

I wish as people that we could think and act like my father did. I wish as a nation we could accept, love and respect each other like the families of Massachusetts Avenue. We need to stop stereotyping Blacks, whites, police, religions, nationalities and start judging people by good and bad. God bless this great nation and everyone in it.

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