True story. Recently I was standing in a long line, waiting for a performance. I was outside, and it was freezing cold. Ahead of me were a couple with a young boy (we will call him Jed), who I got chatting too. The more we talked, and the more I learnt about the Jed, the closer we all stood in an attempt to keep him warm by shielding him with our collective bodies. Within minutes I felt as if I was on the team for Jed, I would do what I could to get him inside fast. He was a priority, someone to protect. Jed had quickly become someone I would step back in the queue for should I have been the one ahead. As the conversation died down, and we each focused on just staying warm, I looked back in the queue and saw another child quite far back, snuggled up between his mother and father. I shook my head slightly in frustration, how silly of the parents to bring a child to a performance with such a long wait, and outside in the freezing cold!
I then realised the obsurdity of my thought process! Clearly I had Jeds family as really sweet and caring for bringing their child out in the cold, and making so much effort to keep him warm so he could see the performance, yet, the other couple I judged negatively.
Given that my current personal mission is to be less judgemental, it made me wonder why I was so quick to accept Jed’s family as doing the best by their child, and so fast to judge the family behind me.
The difference? I had talked to the first family, heard their story, and created a level of empathy for them.
I know, nothing really earth shattering here, its human nature to be more understanding of what we know. It’s normal to quickly pop someone in a box (i.e. stereotype them) when you have not had the chance to get to know them. So, no problem, right?
Wrong. These judgements, these hasty classifications of people we have never met are causing massive problems in the world right now. We are so fixed on labelling people right/wrong, normal/abnormal that we are creating all these restrictions on how and where a person must live and missing out on getting to know so many different people. Furthermore, we are creating a world with a ridiculous set of inconsistent rules that have gone as far as to penetrate the very basis of our laws.
Take polygamy in Westernized countries for example. Totally uncool, and in many places, illegal (as this is bigamy). Mention polygamy, and for Westerners images of Warren Jeffs pop to mind, girls in long, out-dated dresses with long braids wondering around obediently waiting for their shared husband. What does not come in to mind is the functioning family where the “partners” are all consenting, all in love, and are raising healthy, well-educated children. We rarely hear of these families, as they are too busy hiding so that they do not have the legal strain of having to defend themselves from bigamy laws and social ostracisation. Are these well-functioning families really the biggest threat to our “family values?” I certainly do not want to fall into the trap of listing other social outliers who are legally accepted and maybe should not be, but let’s face it, there are many other “family dynamics” a lot more threatening to the well-being of children than a family that chooses to have more than two loving parents.
Rules like this exclude many minorities, and religions not in the majority. They force people to keep to others who share their values, and stay in countries that protect their “life styles”.
The fact is our world is shrinking, we are able to travel, live in different countries and with the internet, we are able to communicate better globally. Yet in some ways, we are still failing to think globally, to accept that we are all different, we live different lives, and we make choices that will not always fit in with each other’s religious or cultural values. For some reason, we insist on using our own religious values and cultural expectations as a measuring stick for others, then wondering why they don’t measure up.
It seems to me, that in order to get along and to really accept each other, for all our differences we need to understand more about the people we judge.
So, I finally get to the point of my next few blogs. I would like to invite you to peer through some windows. I would like to introduce you to some moments of judgement/stereotyping, then walk with you into the lives of these people, by way of e-introduction into their worlds. I will admit, some writers license* has been taken, however, there is also a large amount of truth represented in these stories. The point of these though, is not to pick apart the truth from “writers license”, but instead to get to know some people that may live a little different to you, and hopefully challenge your current way of thinking.
Please, also, comment. Challenge me. I do not want to tell anyone how to think, I just want to be able to creatively explore different lives, and the reasons they are so often prematurely judged.
*No one story is based on one exact person, but rather a compilation of experiences, observations and moments in time. No one character is based on one person, and any names that match real people are purely coincidental!