Tell us about yourself, Annalee Spain. Who are you? How would you describe yourself?
Thank you for asking—because that’s my biggest mystery. I was raised alone by my dad, and Joe Spain was a little rough around the edges. The neighbor ladies taught me “girl things” and how to be a “nice young lady.” But who am I? How do I answer that question? I’m on a journey to figure that out.
But you’ve accomplished a lot. You’re “the Colored Professor.” Doesn’t that say “you’ve made it” in the world?
I suppose it should. But the world doesn’t look kindly on folks like me. So I find myself asking God, Why not? His answer is to trust in Him—and that He loves me. For all of us, that’s a pretty good place to start.
What do you want most in life?
To make the world better—for everybody. Sounds crazy. But I want people to see each other with God’s eyes, reflecting on the real person who’s on the inside. Yesterday someone yelled a bad name at me from his Model T automobile. The word stung. Still, I wondered, who is that person—on the inside? Why is he trying to hurt me? As long as I’m asking that question, for me, I haven’t lost hope.
Are you a detective?
I’m learning how to be. I’m not Sherlock Holmes, even though I read and love all his adventures. Instead, I’m a daughter who misses her murdered daddy. The Bible says, “You shall not murder.” But Jesus says if you’re even angry with someone, to reconcile with that person.
So I’m trying to solve a murder but not hate the person who did it. To look for clues but not think the worst of suspects. Am I a detective? God knows I’m trying to be. But at the same time, I’m searching for my real self, too, and to feel okay with what I find. I suspect we all are.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My friends. They’re gold. They’re like gifts that I didn’t earn and don’t deserve. My landlady, Mrs. Stallworth, tests me at every turn and argues with me—even about how much milk to put in the corn bread. But she would lie down and die for me. So would young Eddie—a ragamuffin of a street kid, an orphan who also is white but could be my little brother or even my son. He would move mountains for me.
What have your friends taught you?
To look for the unexpected. Sometimes life sends us people or friends who don’t look as if they belong in our lives. But as I’ve learned, don’t be so quick to turn them away. They could be the gold you’ve been digging for and trying to find.
Have you ever been in love?
Do you know something that I don’t? In fact, I have met a young man and to know him feels like being in love. But I’m learning what that means, too. Can I leave it at that?
In the world, where would you most like to live?
Some place where the sun shines every day. But that’s where I live now. In Colorado, we get sunshine perpetually. Even when it snows, by the next morning—or sometimes the afternoon on the same day—the sun bursts through and the sky is a blinding blue.
Have you ever been to a place where it’s ice-cold, but your body and face are so warm in the sun that you’re pulling off your coat? That’s Colorado on a beautiful winter day. I love it here.
What’s your greatest fear?
Disappointing God. He has given me so much—an education, loving friends, important work, even the prospect of romance. But do I measure up? Do any of us? As a theologian, I know God doesn’t judge us in that way. He sees our hearts—and He loves us anyway. Still, I desire to live up to my potential in Him. Or maybe that’s not a fear but my greatest hope.
What’s your favorite thing to wear?
I don’t have many clothes—and the stores don’t let colored people try on clothes, even if I had enough money (and I don’t). I know women who are seamstresses, but I can’t pay them either. So perhaps my favorite thing to wear is my late daddy’s Stetson hat. It’s a bit worn and too big. But when I put it on, I recall his love and presence. That makes it a pretty good favorite, right?
What’s one fanciful thing you’d love to do?
To ride a bicycle! I love watching people riding them. I want to balance on two wheels and ride with confidence and joy. While wearing a new dress! Does God answer prayers like that? I actually believe He does.
Thank you for interviewing me!
Patricia Raybon is an award-winning author and essayist whose books include My First White Friend, a Christopher Award–winning memoir about racial forgiveness, and I Told the Mountain to Move, a prayer memoir that was a Christianity Today Book of the Year finalist. Patricia’s other books include The One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional and Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, coauthored with her younger daughter, Alana Raybon. Patricia’s essays on faith, race, and grace have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, Guideposts, Christianity Today, andother national publications and blogs. She lives with her husband, Dan, in her beloved home state of Colorado. Her latest book, All That Is Secret, releases from Tyndale in October.