Us and Them?
I was in the checkout line this week behind a Hispanic family; a mom and three children. Two of the kids were hanging with mom while one was at a bargain bin admiring a bracelet with glass beads. The mother finished checking out, gathered her things and headed for the door. The problem is she forgot a child, the one admiring the bracelet. The cashier caught my eye and said; “You can come up now.” I smiled, gesturing to the girl and quipped; “I don’t think she’s ready.” “Oh. They do that all the time! Forget their children and leave the store. Come on up.” I wasn’t going to push the girl out of the way and so asked her; “Where’s your mom? Did she just go out the doors?” The little one stared at me and I’m not sure she understood what I was saying or was intimidated by a stranger. She moved and I kept my eye on the door while the cashier scanned my items. She continued to insult the mom and lumped all Hispanics together with condescending phrases; “They all do that, don’t care about their children. When I was growing up my mother would’ve never left me. She always knew where we were but they don’t care.” I finished checking out, retrieved my bag and headed out the door. I was annoyed and concerned.
When I got outside I scanned the parking lot for the mom and sure enough, she realized her child was missing and was heading back to the store. My worry dissipated. My annoyance at the cashier persists now as I am writing about it. I don’t understand how a person can casually dismiss an entire race of people. This child with the bracelet, this mom with her hands full, didn’t need judgment. They needed understanding instead of insults, someone to help the mom not forget her most precious cargo. Moms of all races have their hands full. Moms forget. Moms of all nationalities are burdened with remembering all kinds of things and if they are new to the United States of America there’s more she and her family has to deal with in a nation where a growing section of the community is hostile to them.
Instead of a fist offer a hand. Instead of a look of contempt offer empathy. Instead of judgment offer humanity.
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Someone asked me today to define hate. I knew what they were asking. They were wanting to know if their dislike of another had gone far enough, grown enough to call it the “H” word. I described hate this way; “…an intense feeling of disdain, a lack of love and grace toward another, a set of blinders placed over one’s eyes and soul to stop from seeing anything good about the person.”
I’m not sure this is the best definition but it was one which resonated with my feelings of someone several years ago who had hurt me into the depths of my spirit. I couldn’t please this person, who focused on what I did wrong and rarely noticed what I did right, complained, criticized, isolated me from others and used up everything they needed and then threw me away like an empty beer can, never looking back.
If I’d ever hated someone this would be the person, but as I thought about them today the intensity was no longer there. It takes a lot of energy, passion, time, to hate someone. Hate occupies a lot of space in your brain, emotions, spirit and life. You dwell on the other, fueled by your extreme contempt. Hatred consumes you and there comes a point when you have to make a choice; “Will I allow my pain and scorn to become who and what I am? Or, do I begin to let it go?”
It’s not an easy decision but its the only option which leads to wholeness and peace.