I am a Caucasian woman who grew up in a middle class society within a two parent household along with 4 other siblings. My school and community had basically 0% diversity. Okay, maybe 1%.
Why is this important?
The other day I went with a friend to see the movie, “Race.” If you haven’t seen it, go. “Race” is the story of Jesse Owens, the world famous Olympian sprinter who made history at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. (Note the date). Jesse Owens was an African-American male who grew up in a poor area of Cleveland, Ohio within a two parent household along with 9 siblings, and worked his rear off to make it to The Ohio State University. He is an inspiration.
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.” – Jesse Owens
As I watched the movie, I realized that I was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable with how the Olympics committee determined whether to go to Berlin. I was uncomfortable with the segregation that was still happening in the 1930’s. I was uncomfortable with the Nazi regime, and their hatred of anyone different from their white race. I was uncomfortable with the way Jesse and his wife were treated at an American ceremony honoring him, and he was asked to enter through the back door. I was uncomfortable that people felt entitled to act rude to people who were different from them.
Being uncomfortable is good. At least I believe it is. It made me think of all the times that I treat people differently just because I don’t instantly connect with them. Maybe they look different. Maybe they have a disability. Maybe they act different.
My discomfort triggered me to look inside my soul and face it. Why was I so uncomfortable during this movie?
The easy answer is that I hated how those people were acting. They were idiots; unbendable and rude idiots. That was the easy answer.
The difficult answer is that I feel uneasy around people who are different. I don’t mean to feel this way and I wish I didn’t feel this way – but I do. I just am unsure how to act and how to talk, and I overthink everything I say before it comes out of my mouth. I am a blubbering idiot.
I always do my best to make everyone feel comfortable, loved and worthy. In these different scenarios, that doesn’t seem to matter. I feel awkward, and have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I may put my foot in my mouth.
I had found the discomfort in my soul. I had pinpointed my feelings. I realized I felt a strong urge to make all those who are different feel wanted and needed. I wanted them to know I don’t condone the actions of rude people. I wanted them to know that I love them for who they are.
No wonder I felt awkward. No wonder I felt like I might say something stupid. I was judging them. I was grouping all those who are different into the same group. I had forgotten that we are all unique and different – and we cannot be lumped into categories.
Jesse Owens knew this. He had an amazing skill for treating people with respect – even if they didn’t deserve it.
After watching this amazing movie, I read this from my bible…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5
Jesse Owens lived by this. I don’t know if he meant to or not, but instinctually this is how he lived. If we want to start treating each other more important than ourselves as Paul (Philippians 2:3) told us, then we must face the discomfort in our soul. We must be real with what is holding us back. We must recognize and face our weaknesses head-on.
In order to minister as Jesus did – to everyone, I know I must begin to understand that everyone has a story behind who they are. Everyone is my brother and sister in Christ. After all, aren’t we all heirs of His Kingdom?
God made us all unique and beautiful. In His eyes we are all different. Acceptance and love of these differences is the goal.
Go see the movie. Experience the past to enrich the future.