Walk into the Light

We seem to be in a very dark period in America, as are many parts of the world. A few people are amassing enormous wealth, but the majority are struggling. With all of the pain comes anger. With all of the anger comes hate. With hate, segments of the population become targets of those who feel unsure of their own worthiness.

Personally, I have never had the feeling that another person determined me unworthy based on who I am. Growing up, I saw it happen to others. My disabled sister was routinely treated as less than a person. I saw African-Americans forced to use a different water fountain, and treated as less than. My Greek husband has listened to comments that all “Greeks” can do is run a restaurant. I have seen the look on people’s faces when they are discriminated against…when they question, “Who am I?”

Today, many people question their worthiness as they are being attacked with hate and intolerance. When a presidential candidate can mock a disabled person, render a woman as a sex object, call ethnic groups thugs, and receive half of the votes in this country, it is apparent that hate is okay in America. But half of Americans do not feel this way. I am a part of that half.

Last night, I got a taste of what discrimination feels like. I stopped into a little dive in Charleston, SC for a milkshake. When I walked in, I had to wait for a few minutes. When it was my turn to order, a young man asked me what I wanted. I started to give him my order, and he brushed me off and told an African-American girl to take my order. She announced to the restaurant that he did not want to help me because I am an “older woman.” He proceeded to take care of the twenty-year-old behind me. Everyone ages. I am not twenty, but I had never felt so unworthy. Of course, all eyes were on me in the restaurant. Believe it or not, I was rendered speechless for a few minutes. For me, age is a number. It says nothing about who you are or who you can be. Both of my parents were ageless. Always progressive, they never gave in to a number. I don’t either. But for that brief moment standing in a dive in Charleston, SC, I questioned my worthiness.

Luckily for me, I only felt that twinge of pain for a few minutes. By the time I returned to the car, the incident changed its meaning for me. It reminded me that no one can make me feel unworthy. The way this young man treated me spoke more about the young man and the young lady who so publicly showcased his actions. It confirmed my belief that people cannot be deemed unworthy because of color, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. It is those people who think they can judge another who demonstrate their unworthiness.

Yes, we are in a dark time. A sad time of hate and anger. But times change and people change. It takes love and strength in character to be a voice for things that matter. I urge every person to re-evaluate how people should be treated. For no matter how many times you justify hate and intolerance with religion, you and your religion continue to lose credibility. For it is those who live in love and kindness, who are tolerant and forgiving, who will walk us out of the dark.