What do we see when we look at others’ faces? We notice the outward appearance, whether we wish to or not. Skin color, eye color, clothing, and so on, are apparent features that are obvious and difficult to pretend we do not see. What we cannot see or know from the outward appearance is a person’s heart. A person’s life experiences, soul, and being are not obvious from the outside.
How can we learn these to appreciate the differences among us? How do we begin a dialogue and enter into the conversation of diversity that is occurring in our nation? How do we bring that conversation into our everyday lives?
We can learn by asking questions, by spending time with one another, by listening to one another. We can serve as an example by befriending those who do not look exactly like us. In that way, we practice our heart muscles—a heart that learns to see others the way Jesus did.
I was born in India, grew up in the deep south in Alabama, and now live in the upper Midwest. As a minority growing up in a small southern town, I knew what it felt like to look different to other people on the outside, but feel the same on the inside.
Growing up in the same place wasn’t enough to make me “one of them.” When people in my small town looked at me, they didn’t see me as Southern. To them, I was Indian, but I felt like everyone else.
As I grew older, I wrestled with my roots, my heritage, my current place of belonging, and my identity. I wrestled with God. Who was I? Why was I born elsewhere and then brought here? I was both grateful and confused. I felt like I belonged neither here nor there.
After all these years, to make the story short (very short), God drew me to him and gave me true identity: I was his beloved child.
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