You’ve heard of #100HappyDays? Well, I stole the idea and adapted to fit my blogging schedule.
Every day is filled with reasons to be thankful. And yet the majority of my day isn’t spent being thankful. That’s got to change. God sent his son to save me - HUGE reason to always be thankful. And I’ve been freed to live a new life through Christ, released from fear, doubt, shame and self-reliance, equipped with love to serve others and blessed with all kinds of daily tasks and jobs to express my love. And that’s just the big stuff.
This is #100ThankfulWeeks to praise Him. I’m sharing one simple thing I’m thankful for each week. Because there can never be to much thankfulness.
Week 39: Diversity
I’m ashamed of what I’m about to share. It goes like this.
“What was her problem?” I ask my other half as he climbs back into the car. We’re stopped at a gas station in rural Georgia, filling up the tank with gas.
My other half looks at me. “What’d she do?” he asks.
I shrug and shake my head. “She just gave you a death glare as she passed.”
He rolls his eyes and begins pulling on his seatbelt. “She’s probably thinking the same thing I am,” he says. “Doesn’t like my attitude.”
I half chuckle, feeling a little superior. “Because you’re a Yankee?” I ask, just taking a guess.
He shifts the car into drive and glances over his shoulder back at the woman. “Maybe,” he says. “Or maybe just because I wasn’t parked the way she wanted me parked.”
I take another quick look at the woman pumping gas as we pull out of the station. “It’s probably the Yankee thing,” I say, feeling even more superior. Because I’m proud to be Yankee. Not from the “South”. Because I have no desire to be “southern” in any sense of the word. “She looks like she’s from the south,” I conclude, rather viciously. “Eyes are too far apart and she’s got a weak chin.”
As soon as I said it, I knew I shouldn’t have. Because making assumptions - ANY assumption - about a person based on their appearance is both absurd and a horrible thing to do. But in my perceived moral high-ground of being Yankee - not a racist southerner - I eagerly pounced on the easiest visual to validate my moral superiority. Eyes too far apart and a weak chin were proof that the woman wasn’t a Yankee and therefore somehow inferior.
I know, deplorable. And it makes no sense. AND, I should know better. I despise racism and bigotry and I would be the first in line to say you shouldn’t make assumptions about someone based on physical appearance. So why would I say such a hurtful and despicable thing - even in private? Why would I even think it?
To anyone I have ever done this to, even if you never read this and never knew I did it: I’m sorry and it was wrong to even think something like that. Please forgive me for my hateful attitude and hurtful behavior. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what your appearance - nobody should be treated this way. Even behind their back.
But apologies don’t erase behavior and they don’t erase the root cause. There are many forms of hatred just as there are many aspects of diversity. In fact, for every aspect of diversity, the ways to hate it multiply. The person with pink hair - what a freak. The person in ratty clothes who smells - lazy bum. The jacked-up pickup truck on monster wheels - hick redneck. The woman in blue running shorts with “Bunny” across the butt - slut. The random woman at a gas station in rural Georgia who doesn’t smile - “southern racist”. It’s me versus them, the people with “normal” hair, clothes, vehicles and expressions versus whoever doesn’t measure up to whatever standard has arbitrarily been set.
But why? Why am I always looking for what’s different so I can set myself above it? Why do I want to cluck my tongue at the diversity around me?
So a person chose to dye their hair pink - what of it? It means nothing. Same if someone chose tattoos or piercings or dreadlocks or botox or plastic surgery. What of it? Their choice doesn’t make them a “bad” person or inferior to me. The way they look and smell is different from me because - SHOCKER - they’re a different person. The vehicle they drive, the clothes they wear, their facial expressions - different because they’re not me. And different doesn’t make me superior or them inferior. It just makes us different.
And when I really stop to think about it, diversity is everywhere in every part of life. No two thumbprints are the same, voice prints are different, facial structure is never quite the same and even identical twins often have tiny differences. We all choose different styles, different hair cuts, jewelry, eyewear and even phone covers. Even more incredible than outward differences are who we are inside. None of us are identical. Different interests, different passions, different skills, careers, weaknesses, pet peeves. Diversity is everywhere - and we’re all equally part of it.
But then there’s people like me who set up artificial barriers between people. Like Yankee and southerner. Male or female. Color or Caucasian. Straight or not straight. Fat or fit. American or un-American. With so much diversity, it’s not hard to find something to pick on. Something to feel superior about.
Yet incredibly, all this diversity is what is fundamentally human about all of us. We weren’t created the same. We are individually crafted. One at a time, one cell at a time. We are fundamentally, inextricably, undeniably diverse. And we always have been. The first human was different from the second human and will be different from the last human. Humanity IS diversity. And it’s an incredible gift because my uniqueness also makes me uniquely useful.
Ironically, the very diversity that makes me so human also makes me a threat to other humans. Because rather than celebrating and cherishing what makes the woman at the gas station different from me, I despite her for it. Rather than appreciating her eyes, her chin and possibly her accent (although I never heard her speak), I twisted her uniqueness into a reason to hate her. I used the diversity of simply being human to attack another human. Rather than celebrating her uniqueness, I used it to create an artificial chasm between us. Like I said at the beginning: shameful.
Don’t be like me. And don’t pretend the differences don’t exist or don’t matter. Don’t try to be the same as everyone else. Diversity is real, it’s important and it’s humanity.
Thank you for making each of us uniquely yours. Remove my fear of differences and help me to celebrate the diversity around me. Instead of using differences to drive a wedge between myself and others, help me to recognize and appreciate each person’s unique gifts and potential. Instead of closing myself off from those who are different, help me to welcome them with open arms and serve them with sincere love.
Have you ever opened your mouth and realized you should have put more time into silent self-reflection?