“And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
I’m in line at Walmart. A family of four is in front of me, including a little girl. She is staring at me. I smile. She says, “Hi! What’s your name?”
“Lisa! What’s yours?”
She answers. I ask how old she is. Three.
We continue on.
Until her dad interrupts. I notice he’s wearing a University of Alabama cap and t-shirt. He looks at me, then speaks to his daughter, “Um, you see what’s she’s wearing?”
I look down at my clothes. I have on my 2010 Auburn University National Championship shirt. (We’re deep rivals, Auburn and Alabama, in case you’re not from around here. See Love in Color.)
I realize he’s friendly about it; we’re all still smiling. So I ask the girl if she can say War Eagle?
Her mom says, “Tell her what we say at our house.”
The little girl is silent. I help her out. “I bet I know. Do you say Roll Tide?” She repeats Roll Tide.
I tell the mom, “She knows what to say—now. That’s how we start them. But then they grow up and marry an Auburn fan and it changes everything.”
I know because that’s what happened to me.
We all have our prejudices (my allegiance was originally with Ole Miss—and still is—but against anybody else). Those are innocent enough (usually, but not always. See When you can, choose your change.).
But more of our prejudices against the “others” are not as benign. They’re malignant.
- They’re not school colors. They’re skin colors.
- They’re not sports rivalries. They’re religious bigotries.
- They’re not “I say coke and you say pop but who cares.” They’re wars between nations over boundary lines and blood lineages and territorial claims.
In this year of my One Word 2014—Compassion, I’m jostled over and over into greater awareness of what keeps us from being compassionate, things like self-centeredness and intolerance and preconceptions.
- Suspicion of other
- Fear of difference
AssumingKnowing we’re “right” (see Being wrong)
For September, the practice in Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is to ease up on our tribal egotism. We’re encouraged to “make place for the more distant other.”
Gone are the days where we only rub shoulders with those like us. In the shadow of my house is a Hindu temple; I pass an Islamic mosque on my way into town; I have online friends from countries all over the world.
“Understanding different national, cultural, and religious traditions is no longer a luxury; it is now a necessity and must become a priority.
. . . We have a duty to get to know one another, and to cultivate a concern and responsibility for all our neighbors in the global village.”
– Karen Armstrong
Reacting in fear of our differences widens the divisions. Responding in love narrows them.
So this month, let’s notice how we and our friends talk about those who are different than us.
Let’s lose the xenophobia. Embrace the variety. Explore the change.
Make room in our hearts—and in our lives—for the others.
The family of four finishes checking out. But before they leave, we all smile together one more time, hopefully closer by our interaction, even with our differences, not further apart.
* * *
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
Who are the others in your life? Who can you love this week that is different? I’d love to hear from you.
- But what will happen to me?
- Destroy discrimination—one friend at a time
- What football fans need to learn
- On the blog – August 2014
- What I’m into in September