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The other day during a church discussion, we ended up talking about spending time with people who are different from ourselves.  One woman lived for a while in Hawaii.  In college, I had professors from all over the world.  After college, I worked with students from Malaysia and South Korea. There were times I was the only native English speaker in a room of over 50 people.  I also worked a pow wow for several years.

“We haven’t all gotten to travel like you.”

What?  No.  I was here.  In Missouri.  Missouri is not known for its diversity.

After the discussion, our minister stopped me.  “People who are different from I am fascinate me,” he said.  “I want to learn all about them.  I think you’re the same way.”

I laughed because when I was little, my grandmother would let me older cousins take all us kids across the street to play in the park.  When it was time to go home, they’d often have to fetch me because I was off playing with “the new kids.”  Often these kids were recent Mexican immigrants and didn’t yet speak English.  That didn’t faze me, tag was tag!

Before you decide you don’t have any opportunities to meet a wide variety of people, look around you.  God gives us a wide variety of opportunities.  Me? I’m always on the lookout for someone new and fascinating.

–SueBE

Driving from Kansas to southern Indiana (and back) is an interesting experience. As you wend your way through the heart of the Midwest, you see things. You learn things. Like what’s important to the people of the heartland. How? By simply looking around at the signs and billboards we post.

Politics, for instance, energizes us. Is “right to work” right for Missouri? I imagine the people of the Show Me state will have to work that out for themselves. Whom should earn your vote for judge in Terre Haute, Indiana? Perhaps a native could decipher an answer from the signs — I could not. (Though I liked the ones shaped like donkeys.)

We are a commercial society. Just about every town off the interstate attempted to draw me in with their antique shops, fireworks outlets and restaurants. Mile-high pie! Clean restrooms! All of these little towns proudly tout their heritages, as well. Come see the magical caverns! Walk the historic district! We are proud of where we live and what it has to offer.

We are proud of our faith, too. We like to advertise our churches and post random admonitions — scriptural and otherwise — in fields and on roadsides. The Midwest is keen to know whether or not I am saved. Anonymous sources exhort me on my sinfulness. Several cities advise me that I cannot possibly love babies enough. (Once the little rascals grow out of infanthood, I can only surmise that they are on their own.)

I love the Midwest. The weird juxtaposition of “Jesus saves” signs next to billboards for fast and discreet gun sales. The Burma Shave-like buildup for a café that may or may not exist anymore. The constant road construction and revamping.

I wonder what God sees when God looks at America and Americans — at our hearts, our good hearts, mostly in the right places. Does God laugh at our foibles, our quibbles, our vanity? No doubt. But God loves these things about us, too. God loves the giant cross in Effingham, Illinois, just as God loves the burgers and sundaes at the local Culver’s.

We are a big, loud, bombastic bunch, we Americans. We’ve got things to say! And that’s what makes the trip worth it: Taking in the come-ons, exhortations, admonitions, lures and wheedles and using our own moral filters to discern our paths.

I-70 runs through the heart of America, good, bad, ugly and righteous. It is up to each of us to decide what to buy…and what to speed on past.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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