Maybe different is not bad. Maybe different is just…different.
I grab toothpaste and Fritos and head for the checkout.
I pass a father and daughter walking towards the back of the store as I walk towards the front. They speak a language I do not recognize. The daughter’s dark hair is in pigtails, her short, little legs run to keep up with her dad.
I walk past a woman wearing a hijab. She has light, olive toned skin and large brown eyes. She is talking on a cell phone.
As I approach the checkout, a man who looks to be in his sixties, with light brown skin, short cropped hair, a slightly furrowed brow and glasses on the end of his nose passes beside me. He holds a piece of paper in his hand and pushes a cart half full of groceries.
The woman I speak to behind the counter is probably a decade older than myself. She has long braided hair and skin the color of chocolate. Her coworker is a foot taller than me and thin as a rail. He wears a plaid shirt, speaks with a strong accent, and sports shiny, jet black hair.
The young guy who takes my basket as I turn to leave the store has creamy, light brown skin and a kind smile.
The two employees I pass as I walk out the door have the same skin tone as my mine. Both have white hair, both stand about six inches taller than myself.
Nearly every person I encounter on this brief trip to the grocery store has skin a different color than my own. Several speak with a strong accent or another language entirely, most are not my age, half are not my gender.
And all I can think as we each make eye contact or don’t, as we notice each other or maybe just quickly pass each other by, is,
There is no “other”.
All my life I have heard the dialogue of other.
I remember as a kid hearing that anyone who did not attend our particular congregation was other…and that even some of the people who did attend were kind of other too.
All my life I have heard the dialogue that different is bad and that different religions, different nationalities, different political views and different sexual orientations are really, really bad. It is a heavy burden to bear, being so other minded. Exhausting, actually.
So I don’t think I want to do that anymore.
I think instead I will start with connection, find my common ground and go from there.
I think it is ok to say, I am afraid of different.
I think it is ok to say, I don’t understand different.
I think it is ok to say, I am uncomfortable with different.
I hope I can be honest and humble enough to admit that to myself and to everyone else.
I wonder what would happen if I eliminated, I am good and different is bad, I am right and different is wrong, I am acceptable and different is not.
I think we all lose when we stand in that place. Everyone. Ourselves, our communities, our children. Especially our children.
The next time I see different, I hope I first think of our common humanness- we all need oxygen and water. We all need connection and love. We all feel. We all crave identity. We all want to be known. We all need food and clothing and shelter.
We all need.
Even the people we demonize, the ones that look so terrifying on television and on the internet, from across the street or across the ocean.
We are all so much more alike than different.
We humans fear the unknown, don’t we? I know I do. We fear different. It is easy to fear that which we do not understand.
My hope is that we can all begin to recognize that fear within ourselves and process it as fear instead of other. My hope is that we can all slow down enough to see the humanity within each other and to see that beneath the many, many layers that make up our lives, we really are all the same.
Can you picture it?
I feel lighter already.