On Sunday evening, myself, my spouse Andrea, and my daughter Elise were all waiting in my very favorite of places to be waiting on a Sunday evening...
The one thing we had on our side was the massive amount of space for my daughter to run around in and (hopefully) wear herself out resulting in (again, hopefully) a very long nap on the plane.
She made use of the space well. She loved the moving walkways and the big windows. She kept crawling behind the ticketing counters and rolling on the floor. Eventually, she started losing interest in the terminal and her attention was captured by another little girl about her age at our gate who was also exploring the terminal with waiting parents.
Our family is white, Protestant, upper middle class. We look the part. We live the part. Our family is about as white and Protestant as a family can get.
Elise's new friend was not white, Sikh, and I'm not sure what economic class. Elise, without any hesitation walked right up to the girl, gave her a hug, and they started walking around the gate area holding hands. There was no pause. No staring. No questioning. Neither of them even knew how to speak yet, but the message was understood, "Let's play."
The approach and the connection were instantaneous because, well... kids are less "programmed" than adults.
FORMED FOR DIVERSITY
How many times have we as adults been hesitant to connect with someone because of our differences? We can say we're "above all of that," but if we're honest, we feel more at ease among people that are just like us. When confronted about it, we might say things like, "That's normal. I'm not a racist. I'm not sexist. I'm just being human."
Are you? Really?
If you watch children, there is often an absence of anything like this going on. Why? Because separating ourselves according to our differences, making justifications, and conjuring up reasons for why that is appropriate or civil is something that is learned, not something we are are born with.
Church folk are often very fond of pointing back to the way we were initially formed by God to explain our current behaviors. We do this for just about everything from eating meat, to being vegetarian, to why our political opinions are what they are, to why we worship the ways that we do, just to name a few.
My question to that type of logic though is, "If God created us with a desire to connect with people, regardless of culture, race, religious background, etc., then why do we often see it being practiced so poorly by 'grown-ups?'"
Look around the room the next time you go to a restaurant in your neighborhood. Look around the room the next time you go to the movies or to church. Is everyone around you just like you?
If so, why? Are you living in a bubble?
Like it or not, we must be intentional about diversity, because if "grown-up-life" teaches us anything, our trajectory as we age is to lose that intentionality. We (like my daughter) have to go exploring, and when we encounter someone different, embrace them.
BACK TO GATE 34B
As Elise and the girl from the Sikh family kept playing there in front of the gate, we all just sat there watching them, the Holy Spirit at work in us. Externally we were all so easily recognizable by class, sex, race, and economic status, but inside we were graced to see the world again for a second as children. Lots of smiles, lots of nods, lots of love.
As he watched Elise and the Sikh girl holding hands and playing, the man sitting next to me grinned, leaned over toward me, and said, "Boy, we sure have a lot to unlearn, don't we?"
"Yes sir," I said. "Yes we do."
P.S. - Elise did not sleep on the plane, squirming and screaming the entire time. Next blog topic? "Patience."