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Whether you are trying to tell your own story or share life’s absurdities, one of the most vital skills we posess is our ability to listen to each other. It really doesn’t matter what I’m trying to communicate if no one will listen.

And a big part of listening is responding. It can be a simple nod of your head. “Yes, I hear you.” Or a shrug. “I don’t have a clue.” Or, if someone isn’t making sense, it might mean asking a question.

One day last week, I got a cryptic text. “Is it okay if we use items from the craft fair?” Since I’m in charge of part of the church craft fair, I knew this was most likely from a church member. But who? All I had was a number.

“I could text back – who is this?” I said aloud.

“That would be rude,” said my husband.

“Asking who it is would be rude?”

He nodded.

Pfft. How could asking for more info be rude? Nope. If I wanted to be rude, I’d just ignore it. Instead I clicked the phone icon.

In moments, Caryn and I were laughing. “Your name is in my phone. Why wouldn’t my phone tell you who was calling?”

In a few moments, I had saved her number with her name and I knew what she needed. We discussed work and her daughter’s health problems. I promised to continue praying.

Whenever we don’t agree with someone or don’t immediately understand what they are saying, it is easy to pull back and ignore them. Whatever. Not my problem. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day we argue and we shut each other down.

But God gave us ears to hear not only his word but each other. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other about everything, but it only takes a moment to listen and to nod. “I hear you. I hear what you’re saying.”

–SueBE

It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

I have to admit it.  I don’t watch the Super Bowl.  No, I don’t have anything against the 49ers or the Kansas City (Missouri!) Chiefs.  I’m just not into football and blessedly neither are my husband or son.  But I’ve heard a lot about the halftime show. There were criticism of J-Lo’s skimpy clothing.  Hmm.  Why aren’t there same people complaining about the cheerleaders?

Then there was the griping about that “strange thing” Shakira did with her tongue.  Seriously?  Now we’re complaining about people’s tongues?  But a friend of a friend explained to us that it is cultural, something the Lebanese do to show joy.  I’m not even going to get into all the fuss and bother about the dancing.  Hint: That was cultural too.

Moments like these I realize that as a nation we are just a tiny bit clueless.  We believe that we are tolerant if we let you put your foot, appropriately clad and not doing anything odd, on our soil.  You are now free to be just like us.

But we forget that tolerance really means letting you be you while I am me.  It means standing up for you and you and even you way over there.  Yeah, you.  The one with the hot pink hair.  It means saying no to anything that strips the humanity from other people.

Jesus showed tolerance when he walked among the people and healed Samaritans as well as Romans.  And he called on us to stand up for those who are imprisoned, without foot, lacking shelter.  Sequins and halftime shows?  I don’t think those were even on the radar for which I am grateful.

–SueBE

Crossed wires. Chaotic interference. Misunderstandings. Bad intel. Instead of seeing things clearly in 2020 (yes, that’s an optometry joke), we seem to be struggling with miscommunication. Some of this derives from how we say things — using texts and social media tends to obliterate shades of meaning like inflection and sarcasm. But part of the problem is the simple rise of noise: Everybody’s talking, but no one is listening. And even the people listening aren’t really hearing. What can we do about it? Let’s start by uncrossing some wires.

Being human is getting us nowhere;
it is time for us to be animals again.
Let go of your body, settle into fur,
into feathers, into exoskeleton
and antennae, into scales, scruff
and haunches. Purr when you’re happy.
Growl when angry. Pester like a fly
until answers emerge. Most of all,
stop touching words as if each is a
thistle. Land on them as blandly
as a bee, touching lightly, springing
from petal to petal. Open your heart
to the simplicity of winter sleep,
tucked in together with no more
motive than merely getting through it.
Share your den with the whole wide world,
wordlessly, remembering our common blood.

credit: today.com

Let’s say you had a meeting and it was crunch time. Looking over the attendees, you realize there’s a baby sitting in one of the chairs in a suit and tie. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day! 

Look at you. You can’t even hold your own head up, man! You’re drooling, babbling on about nothing, and your contribution at the last meeting was nothing but a big pile of poop. Get ahold of yourself! 

You notice the baby’s round belly under his pocket protector and bib.

You’re letting yourself go around the middle, there, pal. You really should do some crunches!

You wouldn’t expect a baby to know how to crunch numbers. Heck, they can’t even crunch granola yet! And surely a baby’s too young to hit the gym.

Different rules apply to people depending on the situation, and we don’t all develop at the same pace. Some may think that, just because they haven’t had an experience, that experience isn’t valid.

People who call others “snowflake” or “overly sensitive” are actually, let me see if I can find the technical term here in my thesaurus.. Oh yes. Insensitive clods!

Mercy. Let me re-phrase that. 

Such people don’t seem to have been born with a compassion compass, that thing inside that says, I may not understand what you’ve been through, but I can see that you’ve been profoundly affected by it.

Then again, if I label them insensitive clods, I’m the one being insensitive. 

Perhaps a better way to frame it is that they’re newborns in terms of the expression of empathy. Their mercy-muscles haven’t formed fully yet. One day they may be in a new situation and it’ll be crunch time for them. Here’s hoping the people in that room will show them some compassion.

When I was a teen, I despised my grandmother’s Southern manners.  My mother’s Leave-It-to-Beaver simpering smile.  How could they let people say such rotten things and not respond?  It was like being a door mat.

Flash forward to today.  One die-hard liberal in the family picked a fight by calling the Republicans “the enemy.”  Maybe a few more of them would have been willing to let it go, but Memorial Day weekend.  Ka-blam!  The battle was on.

Today, an urban teacher friend panned Missouri legislation that would change various elements in the school year calendar state wide.  Apparently, I haven’t researched this, the goal is to improve state tourism by not starting school until later in August.  But could my friend simply say “this legislation is a bad idea?  Oh, no.  He had to call the tourist area Lake of the Go-Karts.  Rural friends may be rural but they know when they are being called unsophisticated hicks.

Tolerance. It isn’t about being a door mat although it does sometimes mean letting something slide when you would rather tell someone to mind their manners, God Bless Their Pointy Little Heads.  For those of you who, sadly, are not southern, that is not strickly speaking a blessing.  It is more of an acknowledgement that sometimes only God can love our loud mouthed flawed selves.  Hopefully, everyone else will be tolerant.

–SueBE

Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

This past week, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN.  I jokingly referred to the trip as the Edwards Extravaganza because all four siblings ,their kids and the grandparents were along.  Needless to say, we didn’t do everything together.  Something about trying to coordinate sixteen people.  We met up for dinner and games each evening but spent the days out and about.

My husband, son and I trekked over the mountain to Cherokee, NC.  As treks go, it was tame since we were in our Jeep as we drove through the pass and onto the reservation.  It was more than a touch surreal.  Shop signs were in English but street signs?  Cherokee first, English second.

Near the TN/NC border.

Our destination was the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  Before I made my way through the exhibits, I thought I knew something about Cherokee history.  The truth of the matter was that I knew the history we learn in Missouri – the Oklahoma history.  In this museum, I learned about the prehistory, the move to live more like whites, the debate about moving to Oklahoma, Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

The removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears split a people in half.  In spite of this, the museum was marvelously even-handed.  Facts about the Cherokee and the other Civilized Tribes were simply presented.  No one was vilified – not Jackson, not the Cherokee who favored the move. The story of the Cherokee people was told in all it’s complexity.

Yet when I tell people here in Missouri where I went and all I learned, people are more than willing to assign blame. I have to understand why Jackson did what he did; he was from North Carolina.  That one really confuses me since the Cherokee were also from North Carolina. Those Cherokee need to get off the reservation so their children can have a good life. If the Cherokee would work to be more like the mainstream culture, things would be better for them. The Cherokee and other civilized tribes farmed and lived like the dominant culture but were still forced onto the Trail of Tears.  A veneer of white-ness didn’t save them or their homes.

What does it mean to be an American?  It is to be part of a society with a complex history. Do you walk among others as a brother or sister? Or do you expect the fish to fly and the birds to swim?  This museum was definitely something I needed to see and I thank God for putting me on this path.

–SueBE

 

My mom would have loved this quote from the author of Peter Pan.  She was a big one for being nice to people even when they aren’t being nice.  “Kill them with kindness” was her motto.

I don’t think she’d be super happy with me.  But, Mom?  Seriously.  These people are just so . . . so . . .

The St. Louis area has once again settled into a pattern.  Peaceful protests and Black Lives Matter during the day.  Riots and property destruction at night.  It isn’t everywhere.  It is actually really isolated.  Our area is pretty much business as usual, but people are people which means they are scaring themselves.

For some of you who don’t have teens, you may not realize that this is also homecoming season. This, of course, means TPing.  One woman reported a group of teens “committing mayhem with toilet paper.”  Yeah, that sounds scarier than TPing but let’s get real.  Just because someone TPed your neighbor’s house does not put you in the thick of it.  The fact that you were scared of a group of laughing teens with butt-wipe . . . well, it tells us more about you than about them.

Now, that did occur at night and some people are easily spooked once the sun goes down.  Full disclosure time.  My 6’1″ son doesn’t even jump out at me any more.  He stands around a corner in the dark and waits for me to walk into him.  Just stands there, grinning like a loon.  My fight-or-flight reflex is such that I always jump.  Always.

But enough about jumpy me.  We also had our annual balloon race this weekend.  You may not know that the balloons land wherever.  A few at the landing site.  A few here.  A few there. One or two landed on residential streets.  One flew so low over my friend’s house that you could hear the burner ignite.  “It was awesome!”  That’s what my friend thought anyway. Other people posted about how utterly terrifying the balloons were.

Utterly terrifying.

I may jump high enough to go into orbit when my son startles me, but as a society we really need to get over being spooked by everything.  Black Lives Matter supporters?  They have no plans to burn your home.  Really.  They just want us to decriminalize the color of their skin.  Quit treating them like thugs.

I spent a lot of time this weekend praying for patience.  I can’t say I managed to consistently be kinder than was necessary, but today is another day.   Just be nice.  Just be kind.  Take a really deep breath.

–SueBE

 

I haven’t had much to say publicly about DACA.  It isn’t that I don’t have an opinion.  I have tons of opinions.  The problem is that most of them aren’t socially acceptable. But this quote by Roosevelt pretty much says it all.

It reminds me of these verses from Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Right or left, people.  Right or left.

–SueBE

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