I had a boyfriend once. I was just 15. I fell for him seemingly out of the blue. When I fell, I fell hard. I couldn’t think of anything else. A normally very conscientious student, I allowed my school work to slip considerably, my emotions were crazy, and my best friends started wondering when they’d get the carefree, funny, friendly, relaxed Esther back.
I think the word was obsession (in a 15 year-old-girl kind of way).
This boyfriend-girlfriend thing didn’t suit me much. Not then. I was way too emotional. Way too consumed. Way too uptight. Perhaps the truth was we just weren’t compatible. He was he and I was she and we didn’t really match… we were much better as good friends and basketball buddies.
But what’s the point of this? Why do I share this snippet of my history with you?
…because it’s what came next that shocked me.
We were on the verge of breaking up. Well, truthfully he was going to break up with me. It was all too much. The poor guy had had enough (sorry man). Then I overheard (I’m sure it was purposely within my hearing), “You need a ‘black’ girl, this ‘white’ girl stuff isn’t good for you.”
I was stunned. It was no reflection on him – it was someone else’s ‘stuff’, perhaps even said partly in jest.
But I’d never thought in black and white. True, we were opposite ends of the colour spectrum, but I hadn’t really thought about it.
I’d grown up within a culture of nations. We had our own little culture, made up of many cultures, living within a host culture (no wonder I sometimes wonder who I am!). I have a photo of my 10th birthday party. I had five friends at my party. The six of us, huddling together in the photo, represent six different countries of origin.
I grew up with diversity. I got so used to different skin colours, different accents, different cultural ideas and different languages, that none of it even factored. I suppose we knew we had differences, and of course we had our fair share of disagreements, but that had nothing to do with colour or race. It was a small and close knit community, we shared a common belief and our parents shared common goals. Differences seemed insignificant.
It was completely normal (and now that I reflect upon it) completely beautiful. We were just kids, living, loving and learning in a shared experience.
The other day a good friend of mine was sharing a troubling incident that had occurred in her life. She was clearly distressed by it. It was a situation of human interaction where an accident had occurred and she was feeling terrible. There was no fault or blame. Just accident.
Yet these were her words, she said, “I can’t help wondering whether the reaction I got would have been different (better) if I was ‘white’.”
She wanted to hide. She didn’t want to be part of the minority. Somehow it didn’t feel safe or comfortable.
I felt sad – sad for her, sad for our world. Sad that, even in a time and a place where colour and race live side by side, there is still deep underlying hurt, deep underlying doubt and deep underlying fear.
Perhaps I’m naïve, but I’ve seen a little slice of how it can be when we all live together well. It wasn’t perfect, and it was protected somewhat in its own little world….but…
…I’ve seen the beauty of the kaleidoscope and know that anything less is dull and dreary.
We’ve just had ‘Harmony Day’ here in Australia. My kid’s school celebrated with an Aussie bush dance. I won’t debate the appropriateness for harmony day (there were differing opinions on that one), but it was a really fun and relaxed get-together. What was really beautiful was the coming together of people.
The school my children attend is very multicultural. It represents many different nations of people (as my own school did). Different colours, different languages, different cultures, different experiences – yet held together by the common goal of our child’s education.
We all sat together in one place. We all danced together. We held hands with strangers as we skipped around the circle – strangers sharing the beauty of togetherness.
Sure, we are all different. But that is beauty. Difference is beauty.
Imagine a world that had no colour, no variety and no difference. It wouldn’t work. It simply wouldn’t work.
What is your heart’s response to difference?
Do you make judgement on colour or race before you see the person inside? Do you sum up a person in clichés or cultural nuances without understanding that the outside (the part we see) is only our shell (albeit a beautiful one). Do you find yourself generalising about a particular ‘race’ of people based on one experience, a stereotype, or a story you have heard? It is so easy to slip into…
Life is a kaleidoscope. Let’s continue to learn and play together, so that we may enjoy it to its full capacity!