GUEST POST: Slinging Arrows of Love and Acceptance
I tend to do a lot of people watching, and what I call “people listening.” Some might call it eaves dropping… but for me, there’s a difference. Eavesdropping is what you do when you’re being a Nosey Nellie. It’s usually done when you believe you have something to gain by overhearing something said in the conversation you’re eavesdropping on.
People listening, on the other hand, is where I listen to complete strangers… not so much because I’m interested in the content of their conversation, but rather because for me, what they say and how they say it gives me real insights into the way people think and who they are. I find it fascinating.
But you know what I’ve heard the most of?
Prejudice. Small-mindedness. Pettiness. Meanness. Snickering. Obnoxious comments about people who are different.
There have been tons of them…. cracks about how someone was dressed, or the color of someone’s hair, or that someone looked or acted gay, or was too fat or too short or walked with a cane, or was too old, or had an accent, or any number of derogatory comments based on far too little knowledge of the person being commented on.
There’s a film I saw many moons ago at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC about anti-Semitism, and how the hatred of Jews began long before Hitler came to power in Germany. What struck me about that film, and what I continue to think about (especially in light of what I’ve been hearing) are these things:
-=- Picking on people who are different than we are is how hatred begins.
-=- Any of us could be targets.
I remember that the people they showed in the film all looked like me, or my best friend, or the people I see every day. There was nothing special about their looks which would lead someone to point and snicker, and yet they were, and continue to be, hated by many. And I remembered thinking to myself…. if those ordinary looking people could be singled out, then what’s to stop us from singling out any specific group of people tomorrow? And how do my thoughts and jokes and behaviors contribute to making things worse — both in general and in my own life?
Any of us could be targets.
And as I thought about the film, I wondered if it could be possible for anyone to see it or experience the museum in general, and to be able to still go out and point and snicker at those who are different. If they could, I’d be amazed. I know that when I saw it, I felt ashamed of some of my own ideas and ungraciousness , and I softened in the face of it, but I really didn’t get the lesson for several more years.
It came when I was a student at Coach U. One of the classes I’d left to the end was a class called Buff It Up!. It was at its core, about living a buff (great) life (you can still find it online here), but it was created by the late, great Thomas Leonard, and his idea of buff and mine at the time couldn’t have been more different, and I really didn’t want to sit through four weeks of being told that my life should look the way he said it should.
So I called in for the first of four classes with quite a bit of reluctance and resistance. As usual the folks on the call were chattering, and the Teleclass leader was there… but something was off–she sounded really wasted.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Coach U would let a drunk person lead a class, and I was all kinds of bristling over it, when she said, “My name is Judy. In case some of you don’t know me, you probably wonder why I sound like I do. It’s because I have MS, and today isn’t a good voice day.”
On my side of the call, I burst into tears. I was instantly so sorry for having judged her. So sorry. Beyond sorry. I was ashamed.
She went on to say that her idea of the class was that each of us should find our OWN version of a buff life…not that we should live the version Thomas suggested.
My resistance melted.
She added that, for her, a really buff day was one in which she managed to move from her bed to her wheelchair without falling on the floor, so she knew we could all create our own versions of a buff life.
More melting, and many more tears.
The lesson, though, came when she taught us to shift our perspective on strangers who were doing things we didn’t understand. She said, “So the next time you see a kid with green hair, don’t point and snicker and think him a fool. Instead, throw up your hands with glee and exclaim, “HOW BUFF is that kid’s green hair!!!!!”
Isn’t that awesome?
I think it is, and I admit I’m far from perfect. Sometimes, I have an instant reaction to someone I see. But when I do, Judy’s words about the kid with the green hair immediately come to me and I backtrack and try to reframe my view. We’re all different. We’re all special. We need to see that before we can learn from it.
So my wish is that you—that we all–remember that, although any of us could be targets, if what we shoot at each other are arrows of love and acceptance, then we help heal the world, rather than continue to dismantle it.
It’s really in our differences that we find strength. That in our varied traditions and backgrounds and colors and sizes and sexual orientation and experiences….. in our absolute and beautiful diversity we create so much more possibility than we ever could alone, or with people who are “just like us.”
When we come from a place of love, and a place of understanding that differences among people are wonderful and not at all scary, we feel more free to choose vendors and personal and professional alliances and relationships we never would have before considered. In turn, we are able to take advantage of so much more than we had available to us when we had ourselves boxed in by our prejudgments, intolerance, small-mindedness… our FEAR.
Maya Angelou said, “Life loves to be taken by the lapels and told, ‘I’m with you kid!’”
I know I want to eat it (life) all up, and to be known and accepted by others for who I am. I want to make contributions, and offer my strengths so that people are better for having known me. And wanting that requires me to first put away my fears and be open to new places, things and people. Once I do that, the possibility exists for them to impact my life, too. I’m a work in progress.
How about you? What do you want for yourself and could the fear of people who are different from you be holding you back?
Anastacia Brice is here for the love in everything she does. As business coach, trainer, consultant, and community builder, she works with women to help them create rock-solid businesses that contribute to their having high-quality lives they love. As writer, she currently submerged in love while writing her first book—about conscious, open-hearted marriage. In her personal life, she’s a happy girlie girl, her spiritual practice is deeply rooted in maitri and tonglen, she enjoys exploring cities, languages, fonts, living at choice (and always choosing the happy path), and cheese. She loves cheese. Anastacia lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband Dominic, their two cats, Mac and Bella, and a plant named Bernie. You can connect with her in social media just about everywhere as AnastaciaBrice, on her blogs VirtualMoxie.com and LoveLavishly.com, and on her site: www.anastaciabrice.com