One of the first things I learned as a child was that there was no reason to fear those who were different just because they were different. There was no reason to hate them when you didn’t even know them. My mother worked in a liberal university, and I suppose that accounted for some of her behaviors and beliefs. Still, I was able to witness her ease of interacting with and befriending people regardless of their color, religion, race, or sexual orientation. In her eyes, they were just people doing their best to make their way in this often challenging world.

Lessons From Life

Early in my adult life, I had two experiences in particular that helped cement those same lessons. The first was a potentially ugly and dangerous situation in which a stocky and verbally abusive young white man was harassing me. Out of nowhere, a hulking black rescuer appeared. The would-be assailant was lifted off his feet and up against the wall, and delivered a quite forceful message: “Leave her alone.” Turning towards me, he reassured me with “don’t worry, I’ve got your back.” I didn’t know this welcome saint, and in fact never even learned his name. But I shall always remember his kindness and the goodness of his soul. Later, as a manager for a national semiconductor manufacturer, I had a chance to pay it forward. In a particularly conservative city, it was discovered that one of my team members was both gay and HIV positive. I had hired him. While there were those who opposed me, I stood by him and his presence on the team. I didn’t see a gay man, I saw another human being in need of a friend.

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Fear . . Or Understanding?

The common threads here are clear:

  • Most prejudice is based on misinformation and fear.
  • The key to understanding and acceptance is to learn about that which we might fear.

In our ever-shrinking world, it’s assured that you’ll be confronted with someone who doesn’t look, or worship, or have relationships that match yours. Your choice is to stay in fear, or to learn. Sometimes, life will deal out a lesson even when you aren’t expecting it. That happened to me recently, when I was given a book to review that I might normally have passed on. The title “Woman Incognito” wasn’t enough to disclose the subject matter. I missed the subtitle “Transsexual Without Transition.” The author, Lee Schubert, recounts her life as a transsexual. From childhood through mid-life, the reader is allowed to see the world through the eyes of someone unsure of the most basic elements of human identity — — one’s gender. This is one of those books that makes you say, “wow, I guess my challenges aren’t so bad after all.” For a journey to increased empathy, it’s a worthwhile read. It’s been said that we, as humans, are much more alike than we are different. It’s my belief that the sooner you learn that, more full and at peace your life will be. . Image credits. Main. Friend.

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