I was raised in a town that had a good degree of diversity.
Growing up, I remember the population being a mix of white collar, blue collar, hippies, rednecks, mill workers, small business owners, artisans, teachers and farmers, to name a few.
The makeup of that town is quite different today with a large representation of post-retirement folks having moved in from out of state.
For 18 years I lived there. What came after that was a four-year tour in the Coast Guard, a pursuit of higher education, and thirty years serving as a pastor. In doing so, my family has lived in a lot of places, seen a lot of things and met a lot of people. Much of this was outside of my home state.
I’m going to list two of these locations. I’m curious as to what kind of reaction you have with each. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Will one or both make you laugh out loud or roll your eyes?
So, here goes: Berkeley, California and deep in the heart of Texas. So, how did you do? Did you laugh? Did you judge? Did you paint them with a broad brush?
One of the best things that has happened in my life was when I encountered “those other people.” These were face-to-face experiences where I really got to know “the other.” Who were these people? Well, in a nutshell, they were not like me. They were all different.
One was an Orthodox Jewish lady who was my neighbor. She made clothing for me. Another was a street-wise Asian kid from the streets of Oakland that I helped to learn English. There was a black minister who served in Dallas. I had a Muslim pen pal. She lived outside of London. I had the opportunity to visit her and her family.
From the list above, how did you react to each of them? If there was some degree of negativity, why is this so?
Could it be that you haven’t had much exposure to folks like these? What if you did and got to know them?
When I see such differences within humankind I need to remind myself that we are all created by God.
In today’s environment, there are voices that call for division. They are strong, loud, and persistent.
I only wish that there were more voices asking for compassion and understanding amid our differences. I still have this hope within humanity.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.