Though things didn’t always work as my five-year-old rationale naturally thought they should, being different seemed somewhere on the fringe. It didn’t affect me like it did others.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t privileged or born into money. In fact, one year I wore the same gold leotards I had the previous season because we were too poor to afford new ones that winter.
Mama restitched them in several places to accommodate my growing legs and I alternated between those and another pair all winter long.
In that era, though, most folks in our sleepy little town were all in the same boat. There wasn’t as much distinction between classes then, nor did people have black and white television sets in every room of the house. Some families didn’t have a TV, period.
Now, when I entered school, I sensed differences.
While other kids played at recess, I grew bored easily. Give me a notebook, a pencil, and a good shade tree, and my world came alive. Instead of reading books, I wrote them. Even then, words and language fascinated me.
Classmates sometimes pointed their fingers and teased, and my heart cracked just a bit.
It was my introduction to “different,” yet I didn’t let it deter me. I made friends easily and teachers liked me. Life was good.
Of course, our family was middle class, white, and lived in the Midwest. If I’d lived at a different time, say, in the South, for instance (like my daddy had as a boy), I imagine I’d have another perspective.
So, fast forward several decades. Different has morphed into so many things, we could chat into infinity and still not cover it all.
How do we navigate this bold, new world?
How do we love those who look different, talk different, and act different?
How do we do different in a savvy, twenty-first century way without minimizing uniqueness?
Well, two beautiful, olive complected girls with almond-shaped eyes and larger-than-life personalities would have some thoughts.
My nieces have experienced, first-hand, both unintentional ignorance and blatant slights. Their Asian ethnicity isn’t as much an issue now. They’ve come to realize that others’ reactions aren’t so much about skin tone and physical characteristics as their reactions are about diversity itself. To drill it down more specifically—fear and misunderstanding—play an active role.
Those seem to be the two driving forces behind what’s happening in the world today.
And let’s be honest, in today’s unsettled climate, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama.
How do we change that?
What can we do?
Well, for just a few moments, let’s consider 10 ways to love those who are different.
1. Meet people where they are. Don’t have an agenda. Don’t try to change them or detract from their uniqueness. Do appreciate diversity and individuality. You might make a friend and gain new insights.
2. Be open to who they are. Don’t be influenced by preconceived notions. Do accept world views and ideas may differ. It’s human nature to flee things we question, but sometimes, it takes the bigger person to start a conversation.
3. Educate yourself. Don’t spout statistics or make snap judgments. Do form a balanced perspective based on character and personal insights. Dare to explore the deeper layers—the ones others would gloss over.
4. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t wait for others to pave the way. Blaze a new trail. Speak. Take action. Do love beyond borders. Choose (healthy) risks.
5. Encourage. Don’t ignore hurt. Don’t patronize. Do suspend judgment and offer words of affirmation. Acknowledge differences and move beyond them.
6. Live by example. Don’t preach. Don’t toss around holier-than-thou rhetoric. Do share spiritual fruit—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
7. Communicate. Don’t talk about others who are different. For heaven’s sake, engage them! Do ask questions. Listen with an open mind. When differences exist (and they will), see #8.
8. Seek common ground. Don’t magnify small differences. Don’t focus on big ones. Do celebrate similarities, abilities, and strengths. Meet in the middle for a worthy cause.
9. Share coffee, a meal, or an activity. Don’t underestimate the power of human contact. Do foster opportunities. Pick up the tab. Let others do the same.
10. Value others. Don’t disrespect based on race, religion, or affiliation. Do champion dignity and equality. Go the distance. Stand in the gap. Consider the hardships and successes that made others who they are.
SHARING IS CARING
How can we show love in this season of diversity? 10 suggestions!
Step out of your comfort zone. 10 ways to show you care.
NOT TO MISS FAVES
The girl who taught me perspective and why I never forgot her.
The thing that sets creatives apart.
Square pegs, round holes. Oddball or visionary?
Are you different? How have you handled diversity in your life?
What would you add to this list?
Thanks for stopping by!
Now—a few housekeeping notes. My recent newsletter went to subscribers’ inboxes this week. Wow. This month’s missive struck a chord. Thanks so much to those of you who’ve e-mailed with your thoughts and feedback. It thrills me to know something I’ve shared has encouraged you. You’re the best.
Until next time…