Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the color of my world

I love this zebra. I love it for its rendering and softness. I love it for its color. And I love that it makes me think about uniqueness and the surprise that all individuals hold for us if we only take the time to see them.

It is the latter for which I feel grateful this morning. Enormously grateful. I have my parents, particularly, to thank for the willingness and desire to look at life with eyes wide open. There are many others who, in supporting roles, reinforced the value that all people are to be seen and appreciated for who they are, and not who we might want them to be. We might think that who they are has to do with their gender, the color of their skin, the language they speak, the disability with which they live, and the peculiar snort in their laughter. I beg you not to stop there.

In the sad public display of so much disregard for others that seems to have become the norm in the world, I am reminded that even though I believe we are all capable of opening our hearts, too many don't even know that they have the ability to do so. Hence my deep gratitude for the lives that influenced mine.

When I stop to consider the opportunities I have every day to learn from the people who cross my path, I am astounded that so many others are denied that same blessing because they choose fear over transformation. What is particularly sad to me is that living with such fear is normal for so many.

As a result of contracting polio as a child, one of my father's legs is markedly shorter and smaller than the other. He walks with a pronounced limp, but I never saw his gait as a limp until I was a teenager. In my world living with a disability was normal.

Where I went to school a significant number of my classmates were absent for the holy days of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. In my world to be Jewish was normal.

I was born and grew up in New England. My grandmother's family was from the south. In my world to speak with an accent that differed from the community in which I lived was normal.

My parents had friends and colleagues whose nationalities and skin color didn't resemble those of our neighbors. In my world to refer to a person by their name and not a label was normal.

The year I was born my great aunt was ordained in the Presbyterian Church. In my world being a woman in a man's world was normal.

By the time I went to seminary I was an Episcopalian, my parents were Quaker, one brother was agnostic, one sister-in-law was Jewish, and my other brother and his wife were Buddist. You won't be surprised to hear me say that in my world, a family's diversity of faith is normal.

These experiences were part of shaping my norms, but the experiences of others help me to expand my notion of what is normal every day. Like my friends whose lives are colored by autism, or whose diets are restricted by celiac disease. There are others whose family has been devastated by suicide, or loss through violent death. Still others were shaped by the shadow of alcoholism or physical abuse. A high school classmate lost her sight when glass shattered into her eyes in a car accident. A college classmate died from a bee sting.

It gets harder and harder to define what is normal.


The Bug said...

Wow - you've got diversity at your fingertips! For me, growing up in a homogenous community in the south, I've had to work at accepting diversity as the new normal.

I remember a single mom & her son (scandalous!) moving into my grandmother's old beauty shop because they had nowhere else to go. The son's name was Colt, he had red hair, AND they were Catholic. It was almost too much. But my family accepted them without question (well, my brother & I questioned the name "Colt"). So they taught me that it COULD be done.

Sharon said...

It reminds me of an old Southern Baptist joke where two old boys were shootin' the breeze. First guy: "Do you believe in women pastors?" Second guy: "Believe in 'em? Hell, I've seen one!"

The "other" can only stay a stranger at arms length or out of sight. Thank you for sharing your rich experience.

KimQuiltz said...

This is another Altar Ego classic. Put a star on this one!

Amen, amen and amen.

Jan said...

The Zebra is so beautiful that my expectations were high for your piece and they were not disappointed. Excellent writing; instructive and illuminating.

Jayne said...

And all that has shaped you to be the woman you are... loving and radically inclusive. Many of us would have been so lucky to have grown up in such diversity!

Mary Beth said...

love this!


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