July 11, 2011

feet of clay

Just like that.

I've lived in four different states and three different countries.  I've attended two different colleges, been employed in twelve different workplaces, volunteered with two different mission groups, and studied the languages and cultures of three different nationalities.

I guess I thought all that exposure to diversity meant I was immune to prejudice.

But the other day, a buried prejudice found me out.  I didn't like the discovery, and I don't like telling you about it.  Even less do I like the fact that it was there to discover.  But there it was, anyway.

We live in "the country."  Not just among the cornfields, although that's true, too, but along a sort of cultural boundary-line not unlike the proverbial railroad track.  [in fact, the line is real - it's a school district division that involves definite stereotypes on both sides].  Drive ten minutes in one direction and you've got your pick of high-end named subdivisions with SUVs and manicured landscapes.  Drive ten minutes in the other direction and you'll find trailer parks, overgrown arborvitae, and pickup trucks.  Whole cultures, twenty minutes apart.

I never noticed how I had compartmentalized the two worlds.  You know: "yuppies" & "rednecks" (or -oh, shame!- that other phrase, "white trash", which we'd never say, but sometimes think, maybe.)

When the house down the street from us was up for rent, a man with two children moved in.  We took cookies and daffodils and introduced ourselves .... and kind of, well, labelled them.  As belonging to the world without the classy address.  As being different from us.  [intentional irony here:  being their neighbors, we obviously don't have a classy address, either]

I made assumptions about their lifestyle, which I thought I could tell by looking, and as if that weren't bad enough, I made assumptions about their values.  (remember that old mnemonic about "assume" making an "ass" out of "u" and "me"?)

This week I found out I was wrong.  They used to attend a local church of our denomination.  Since moving, they'd thought of visiting where we attend, but just hadn't made it yet.

Gulp.

Appearances are just that:  the way things appear to be.  Not reality.  I thought I had them pegged:  no common ground there.  That we found denominational common ground is not the point, but it serves to remind me that there would have been something, had I taken the time to look for it.

Humbled (humiliated is more like it), I want to double back and make up for lost time.

There is always common ground.  In all of us, under all the layers, beats a heart loved and given life by the same God who made us all, in His image.

".......................................I am a [person]. Hath
not a [person] eyes? hath not a [person] hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
[any other person] is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die?.........................................."

[apologies to Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene I]


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