Observations. The introvert in me likes to observe situations a lot. Then I make usually make judgements or assumptions or opinions.
Take this observation for example:
Every day, if I’m home, I watch as a father sees his son off to what I’m assuming is school. Then sometime in the afternoon I watch the same father welcome his son home.
The father is older and the son could easily be in his twenties, perhaps even older. What sets them apart from the mothers and others who lead their children to the bus stop each morning and welcome them home at the same bus stop every afternoon, is that this son is handicapped. He’s paralyzed and in a wheelchair. I’ve often watched them take the elevator, barely fitting both wheelchair and father into the tiny contraption, taking them to the 3rd floor.
It’s sad and beautiful to watch.
I wonder what happened. Was the son born this way or did something tragic occur? I watch the driver of the specialized vehicle from the school converse with the father each morning and afternoon. There’s so much love.
Both father and son are foreigners, or at least I’m assuming. The father is in traditional Muslim, Middle Eastern clothing, has brown skin and honestly, I don’t know if he speaks much English, as I haven’t heard him speak. Then again, I live on the 2nd floor and though this scene plays out not far below, it can be difficult to hear. I have seen others with this family, possibly brothers, all again wearing the same thing and it’s possible I’ve heard Arabic spoken. Not sure.
And ok, I’ve at most said hello in the form of a smile as I’ve held the door or something. Plus, I live in a very diverse apartment complex, so I’m used to hearing Hindi and other languages spoken. Again, all of this is an assumption on my part, so I could be totally wrong. America has grown to be an even more diverse society, so it’s quite possible they all were born here and choose to wear clothing from their heritage. So these assumptions are based on observances.
Anyhow, as I was walking into my apartment building this afternoon, carrying my final load of groceries and laundry, the father was coming out of the elevator. I punched in my key, only to find the father opening the door. He came out and then held it for me. I thanked him and I think he may have simply nodded, though I do remember looking him in the eye. It’s quite possible he said “sure” or something, I don’t remember. I was too tired and sweaty from the 3 loads I carried upstairs.
As I unpacked, I stole glances to the street below, listening to the van lowering his son to the pavement and them making their way into the building. It’s this beautiful moment every day of father and son, sharing something so simple and I’m observing from my 2nd floor window, the outsider.
What must is be like for them? If I’m assuming they are from the Middle East, living in this strange country that pretty much wants nothing to do with them can’t be easy. Plus I’m assuming they are here for medical reasons, for a place that the son may get the help and treatment he may need. If my parents needed something for their children, if they knew that Canada or Japan or whatever had the best medicine or doctors or whatever for whatever my siblings and I needed, I’m going to assume they’d do whatever it took to get us that help, even if meant transplanting to a foreign country. The same is true of this little family that live a floor above me, again, based on observances.
Jesus taught to welcome all – stranger, foreigner – doesn’t matter. He told stories about one foreigner helping another. He welcomed the Samaritan women – an outsider, someone unlike himself and who was considered ‘other’ based on, what? blood? Jesus said all are welcomed into God’s kingdom, or as I like to say, God’s kin-dom, because aren’t all part of the human family in the end?
In a country that is so frightened by people who dress in burkas or traditional Mid-East clothing, who are so afraid based on assumptions and observations that stem from 9/11 or ISIS videos or whatever, it saddens me that this little family doesn’t get the credit of simply being human. It saddens me to think of others who want in our country for permanent residence or schooling or medical assistance or safety because their country is at war, will not be able to get it here. Ok, maybe they will be able to. Depends on who gets voted in this November.
Why are we so afraid to welcome the other?
Why is humanity so afraid of humanity?
I love the father-son duo I’ve come to observe. I love the love they share. And I wish more people in our world could see this little act of love like I do almost every day before making judgements and other assumptions. Because it’s such a human act – caring for someone else.
Again, a lot of what I’m observing is leading me to my own assumptions and conclusions, the little story about this family I’ve created based on what I’ve seen. However, does it matter?
I don’t see a Muslim father and son. I simply see a father who is doing all he can for his son, who is there to welcome his son home at the end of the day, who is trying to give his son a better life despite the challenges. Some may see refugees or worse – aliens who shouldn’t be here and might be making bombs. I mean, really? Not all from the Mid-East are ISIS. Not all Hispanics are drug lords. That’s like saying all from the southern US are bigoted, racist and members of the KKK. It’s a small few who ruin it for others.
Observations can lead to assumptions and judgements and often times hate and discrimination. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, remember what Jesus said about welcoming the stranger and remember that in the end, we are all human, trying to make our way in life, sometimes in foreign countries.
Dear God, help us to see everyone in your Kin-dom as human, different and yet created in Your image. Help us to break down barriers of hate and discrimination that often come from observations and assumptions. Help us to observe the good in all people. Amen.