Neighborly Love, Part III
Point to Ponder:
Do you instantly dismiss the opportunity to connect with someone because they look or talk differently than you?
Neissa Brown Springmann
Have your ever sat next to someone who you didn’t know, or who didn’t look or talk like you and think to yourself, “There’s no chance I have anything in common with him or her.” Then, surprisingly, the conversation begins, you start connecting, and you learn that you have much more in common than you anticipated. This is the embarrassing story of my life.
Shamefully, I prejudge and place labels on almost everyone. I prejudge them based on the way they look, dress and the kind of car they drive. Unfortunately, I do not first consider all of the things we could have in common or that we could even be friends. Instead, I think it would be nice if we had some things in common and were able to be friends, but I pretty much dismiss the opportunity for connection. Trust me, I’m not proud to admit this–but it’s the truth.
I have found this to be particularly true since moving to San Diego. To my surprise, San Diego is very diverse and while I am grateful for this, I have found that I look for people who look and even dress like me–a.k.a., a Texan! For example, it comforts me to see a mom dressed in her workout clothes, and because a Prius is much more popular than a Tahoe, it brings me great joy to see someone driving a big’ole Suburban, Tahoe and Escalade. In fact, just yesterday we parked next to Texas style pickup truck (a BIG truck!) that took up two parking spots (the parking spaces in Cali are tiny). As silly as it sounds, I wanted to hug the man driving the truck and exchange life stories. I was certain he was a Texan!
I’m unsure if my reaction is human nature or because of my limited and non-diverse upbringing and life experiences (or both), but I do seek out and find great solace in people who look, dress and talk like me. However, what I am learning is that with most people, I have more in common than I think, and in this lies great opportunity.
One such example is through our Bible Study. We are a small group of three families from South Korea, the Philippines, California and Texas. If you just looked at us from the outside, you would easily assume that the only things we have in common are: we live in San Diego, we attend the same church and we are married with children. However our struggles, fears, experiences, weaknesses, and life desires are uncannily similar. At first, it was difficult for me to clearly understand the South Korean couple, however what I quickly learned was that a smile is a universal language, and after only a few evenings together the language barrier ceased. The key was being open to getting to know them, spending time with them and loving them. What I have learned is that this couple are some of the kindest people I have ever met, and we have much more in common than I ever could’ve imagined. They have become sweet friends.
Finally, I had another “we have way more in common than I thought” moments after leaving Durant’s (our five year-old) karate class. With a five and a two-and-a half year old, getting in and out of the car can be painful. Like watching paint dry it can take for-ev-er! So, even though our car was parked only ten steps from the karate studios entrance, the process took at least ten minutes. As I finally got Malaine into her seat I looked over my shoulder to see another family, also leaving karate, struggling to get their kids from point A to point B, which was about ten steps. As I watched this and chuckled, I said to the mom “Isn’t it amazing how long it takes to just to get them to the car?!” She then looked at me and said, “It is agonizing and I’m so glad to know it’s not just us!”. I reassured her that it is not just them, rather it is all of us! This is a mom and family who look nothing like us and embarrissingly, I had not attempted to get to know. After our exchange, it made me realize that she was probably looking at me with the same sentiments, thinking that because we look nothing alike that we have very little in common.
All in all, I believe that life is a revolving door of humbling lessons, and in the case of this journal, I believe my lesson is to love my neighbors–everyone. Because I am surrounded with so many people who are different than me, I am learning that judgement and love cannot co-exist. To love our neighbors is to set stereotypes and judgements aside. It’s not only being open to relationships with all people, but seeking opportunities to connect and love people who we don’t seem to have much in common with. These people are all our neighbors and the law of averages says that we will have more in common than we think. This doesn’t mean that we have to invite them over to dinner or become best friends– however we should share a friendly smile and initiate a conversation.
Seek opportunities to have conversation and connect with people (your neighbors) who look, think and talk differently than you do. A warm and friendly hello and smile is a great start.
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