The Black Kid

At the age of six or eight, I liked to play with toy soldiers. World War II was raging in Europe and the far East, so I tried to simulate some of the small battles. One morning, sitting in our front yard on Main Street, I assembled a fight between two toy platoons.

A Black kid, slightly larger than I, approached from down the street. I started feeling a bit nervous. I knew Black and White people didn’t mix, and I’d heard Black people stole things. I looked at my toys, wondering if I should pick them up and run inside.

The kid came close and said, “Can I play, too?”

I looked up at his smiling face and said, “Sure. Which side do you want?”

For the next 30 minutes or so, we played shoot ’em with the soldiers, making our sounds of pow, aaarg, and boom.

After a while, Dad’s car pulled up to the curb. He was coming home for lunch. My heart flipped, wondering what he would say. He stepped out of the car and looked over at us sitting in the yard, toy soldiers scattered around.

“This is my friend,” I said hesitantly, even though I didn’t know the kid’s name.

“Hi,” Dad said, stepping up to the porch.

My young friend jumped up and ran down the street, leaving me to gather up the toy soldiers.

I went inside, head bowed, just as Dad was ready to sit down with Mom for lunch.

“I… I’m sorry,” I said.

“Did you have fun?” Dad asked, never addressing my comment.

“Well… yes,” I replied.

The next day and several days after, I returned to the same spot with my toy soldiers, hoping my friend would show up.

But I never saw him again.

For more stories, see my recently published book, “Hand on the Shoulder: Finding freedom in the confluence of love and career.” It’s available at most major booksellers and at



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Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book is “Hand on the Shoulder.”