Color Blind? –
This morning our staff attended a lecture on the Understanding Your Implicit Bias. The takeaway is that we all have biases, ways of looking at the world, groups of people, each other. These biases come from our parents, other role models we had as kids, extended families, the neighborhoods we grew up in, friends we hung around, and countless other influences. It wasn’t a lecture on “if” but “why” we developed biases and how they impact your interactions with people you encounter each day, what you think when you hear certain words, see certain images, and how deep these biases are rooted within us.
One of the more interesting topics the lecturer spoke about was the idea of being “color blind.” In other words not seeing a person’s skin color but their character. On the surface, this seems like a great way to connect with each other. The challenge with this way of thinking, according to the speaker, was that you strip a person of part of their identity. As a Christian, white, middle class, middle-aged, southern, heterosexual, male, each of these traits are part me. Along with the unique experiences of my life they make me who I am.
I found this a wonderful and a too often overlooked idea. Sometimes, in order to make everyone “equal”, we take away parts of their identity or neutralize them. When we do this we are doing a disservice to them and ourselves. People, fully known, recognized and loved, connects us in a balanced way that honors the breadth of humanity and the amazing uniqueness present in all of us.
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Blow Over –
I have a confession. I don’t like air dryers in public restrooms. They either blow too lightly and just move the water further up your arm or they’re so powerful they make the skin on your hands look like ripples on a lake. I would rather have paper towels. They’re quicker and paper towels are something you can grip, and apply as much or little pressure as you like. You can get them into the crevices and all sides of your hands. When you finish you crumple them up and throw them away,
Today, at a community baby shower in Coffee county, Tennessee, there were booths and tables all over the local mall. Parents, expectant parents and anyone else could discover a lot of information and hands on experience from family experts. Every booth or table had free giveaways. Our table had books and free book bags for families if you listened to my “speech” to help dads understand the importance of reading and being involved in the education of their children.
Each of the community and faith-based organizations were there to help. They allowed parents to know the help and support that was available in the community. The baby shower itself was like a blower in a bathroom covering a lot of things but to get the full coverage, the assistance a family might require, a follow-up would be needed. An opportunity for the organization to get more than a name and contact information. A chance for the family to see the organization in action.
Wisdom teaches us that we must be careful not just to “blow over” each other with banal gestures of friendliness but rather to connect with others in a deep way. Our relationships are not to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
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He was trying his best to reach the last few boxes of Crunch ‘n Munch on the store shelves. I was checking off items on my list and heard him jumping. I turned around and asked the boy; “You got it?” He responded in the affirmative as he grabbed one and took it down. Another second and he was jumping again. I was about to leave when a meek voice rang in my ears; “Can you help me?” “Sure,’ I replied, walked over, grabbed the next to the last box and handed it to him. ‘Do you want the other one?'” He shook his head “no” and then ran out of sight. I smiled and hoped he enjoyed his snack.
I reflected on the young boy’s attempt to attain what was out of reach and how easy it was for me to go over, grab it and hand it to him. I thought about how some things are easy for some and harder for others. What might take all the strength one has to barely, perhaps never, accomplish a difficult task, others can do effortlessly. At first glance, it might not seem fair but I think it highlights our need for each other. We are made to work together, to be the strength to another’s weakness, to give courage when one is about to give up, to be their legs to help them stand, their hands to grab or let go, to connect when all else seems distant and unattainable. Of course, it works the other way when we are in need as well. Only together can we fully live and accomplish all we were meant to be.
Yesterday I wrote about hearing the sound of a kitten but not being able to find it (“Listen” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/09/08/listen/). Today, I saw it for the first time. However, it wasn’t the way I wanted to be introduced. I was weeding near outdoor shelves and the weed whacker was on full throttle. Grass and dirt flying everywhere and when I was right next to the outdoor shelf all of a sudden the gray kitten (I now know what color it is) shot out from under the shelf running for dear life. I immediately turned off and put down the weed eater and went looking for it. Using my best “meow” and “here kitty kitty” I tried locating it to introduce myself and assure it wasn’t in any danger but no luck. It was in too much distress to come out of whatever hiding place it discovered. After I finished with the weeding I put out a little food and some water in hopes it will show up again. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A friend, who is a teacher, posted on Facebook that it can be difficult to reach students because of the trauma and distress they face in other parts of their lives. He lamented the impact a teacher can have because of the other challenges and difficulties his students are facing on a daily basis. I find this true in my work with men as well. Whether they are incarcerated, in a rehabilitation clinic, non-residential, divorced or living with mom and the children, most of these men have a painful story. They are impacted by their past experiences of neglect, abuse, heartbreaking home lives, and lack of positive male and female role models. These not only affect their current behavior but also wire their brains and condition their bodies to react in mostly negative ways.
What I’ve learned is that I can’t fix these men. It’s not in my power. What I can do is show them respect and kindness. I try to connect with each one personally. If I can establish a relationship built on kindness and respect amazing things can happen. I’m unable to help them all but I try and trust this is enough.
Earlier today I was standing in a shopping line waiting for an available cashier. I was lost in thought when someone said in a loud voice; “Hey baby!” Snapped back into reality I watched an elderly woman walk to another shopper ahead of me and give her a big hug. They spent a few moments catching up; sharing lots of laughs and a little bit of gossip. I smiled to see two people revel in each other’s friendship.
After being checked out I reflected on how connecting with people can brighten our days and lives. To see one who loves us, cares, genuinely wants our best makes walking life’s path easier and certainly more enjoyable.