Monday, March 14, 2011


A long time ago, I sat in a workshop led by one of my peers who had struggled mightily with rejection on the basis of his race. This was years before Stephen Colbert announced he did not see colour, but I was perplexed, unable to enter into the guilt I was supposed to feel as a white person. I genuinely did not see this as an issue for me.

Until Mike, the man leading the session, pointed out that when his wife, who was a black woman, bought panty hose, the colour that was nude was not her nude. The penny dropped: it was not so much that I was openly racist or deliberately rejecting of people of other colours and races, as that I was naively oblivious to my culture's rejection and that I participated thoughtlessly in it.

I tend toward erring on the side of having too much of an open mind. I like to credit my intelligence for my waffling and my ability to see many sides of a story or an issue, but it may just be indecision. Nevertheless -- aside from despising criminals who laugh at their most heinous crimes - I don't often find myself sitting in judgment on a person or a situation. Instead, I tend to have sympathy for most people, imagining what might have brought them to the place where they would behave in such a way.

What brought me up short most recently was not pantyhose but people close to me laid bare by a series of unexpected and unfortunate events. Two friends and I were talking last week as one of them prepared to fly home to see her dying father. The other told her to leave her work behind, unless she needed to do it for her own sanity. "You need this time," he said. "To grieve and to fight with your siblings."

That's what can happen in a time of crisis, isn't it? And, apparently it is not only normal but something that should be planned for.

It isn't what happened in my real life situation, but it's what happened in my head - I sat in judgment on actions and non-actions taken by various people.

And once again, I shocked myself. Because just as I blithely chose nude pantyhose that matched my skin, so, when push came to shove, I thought my way was best and that those who chose otherwise were wrong.

Except that what they did was real and raw and true and brave. And what I thought was small and self-serving, when what was called for was pure love.

Some people think that when Christian religion calls people to repent, that it's a terrible thing that induces guilt. For me, it's an utter miracle, a blessing, grace. Because what I cannot change, I can turn from. And I can turn to One who can change me as I too apparently need to be changed.

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