Ask April- Observational Wisdom- Embracing Differences

Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting.  While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice,  that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.

Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.

Dear Readers,

I write this the day after Hurricane Irma struck Florida- where several family members live.

I write the week after the hurricane hit Texas.

After these events, we see people of all walks of life pulling together to survive, salvage what belongings they can, and soon, rebuild their lives. Together.

We do not see people only working together with those exactly like them, do we?

No.

We see people reaching out to whoever they can to ask, and give help.

It’s a hell of a note we can’t be like this at all times.

I’m pretty certain any KKK members put out by the hurricanes will gratefully accept help from people of color. I’m also certain the ‘god hates fags” crowd would gladly accept help from people who are gay. Neither racists or gay bashers are going to be in any position to ask their helpers if they embrace their beliefs and lifestyle before they accept help, will they? No.

People who declared on social media they were writing off all people who voted differently than them are not going to be asking how rescuers voted if their home flooded, and they need help due to being stranded.

People are already doing drives for money and goods to send to Texas and Florida, and I’m certain they won’t say a thing like “I only want aid to go to people who aren’t fat, because I feel it an unhealthy lifestyle I refuse to support.” Of course they won’t.

It is estimated that 62% of all people in Florida are without power tonight. A thing like that does not care what color, age, Nationality, wealth level, or etc. people are. It effects everybody equally.

I visited my aunt  a couple of weeks ago and listened to her bitch about all the things I personally hold sacred politically. She’s older, white, rich, evangelical, and Republican. I’m younger,  more liberal, Pagan, voted for Obama twice, and wanted Bernie for prez. She’s in her 70’s, and no amount of speeching or debating will change her. I just want a relationship with my aunt, and if I don’t agree with her politically or religiously, I’m not going to sever ties and say she offends me too much to love anymore. I had a 40 year relationship with the woman before she did not vote for Hilary. I’m not about to give that up to impress other peolle who vote as I vote.

I see person after person brag on social media that if somebody voted this way, believes that way, or eats this or that, the relationship is over.

It must be really nice to be so uninvolved in relationships that you can write people off without a thought due to a disagreement on one single topic.

One trendy thing to do is write people off who shop where you don’t want them to. It’s also popular to write people off because they don’t eat the same things you do.

I was listening to Mo’Nique bitterly state the best thing white women do is to suck dick. Not knowing anything about her, I was struck with wondering why such a nice looking, successful woman would demean herself publicly, and be so openly racist.  How does somebody think skin color dictates how well you suck dick, or do anything else? There is absolutely no way to explain of justify a belief like this.

It’s simply not true that a thing like skin color would decide anything like this.

This is just one of many examples of making assumptions about people who are different than us results in. More than issues of racism, or any other form of discrimination, the issue is one of segregation.

We tend to gather with people most like us, and consciously, or unconsciously avoid people different than us, regardless of what those differences and similarities are.  

It narrows our minds, closes our hearts, and makes us incredibly egocentric if we never venture out to be with those who are different.

I find some of the people who most proudly proclaim themselves to be inclusive and progressive to be just as guilty of this as people who publicly call themselves most conservative.

If you refuse to be around people who are different than you, it leads to confusion about how similar we really are. It leads to suspicions, which lead to fear, which leads to the H-word. Hate.

In the grand scheme of things, human beings are really more alike than we are different.

I discovered these things because I was around people from many Nations, religions, political beliefs, and from many backgrounds. Differences aside, we all want the same things. To be happy, to live our lives freely, to be healthy, and have the home, and family we want. The little things that make these things work for all of us can vary, but the basic needs are the same.

We all eat, even if we eat different food. We all sleep, even if we sleep differently. We all see the same sun, even if we view it from different places. We are all children of the same earth.

I love food. I saw African, Indian, Mexican, and Asian markets nearby, and out of curiosity, dropped in to shop. I still do. One of the times, a very loud woman wearing a burqa walked in, and took over the whole store. The men followed her around quietly, buying whatever she told them to. If you believe people who have never been around Muslims, you would disregard that, and assume all Muslim women are battered, enslaved, lorded over by men, and cannot speak in public for anything. I have known many other Muslim women who are equally as domineering- or as I was raised- the women run the family and household.

I was also told the Amish were uneducated, the children were seen but not heard, and they were in no way normal. I was told they lacked the basic creature comforts, and did nothing but quilt, farm, cook, and beat their women and children.  Living in Central Ohio, I come in contact with both Amish, and Mennonites regularly. Even the least modernized groups of them act just like us in many ways.  I will never forget the groups of men, women, and children who came on cave tours I used to lead. One group was lead by a young lady in her early 20’s who was five foot tall, if that.  The boys taller than her yes ma’amed her, and the fathers deferred to her. The kids ran around in the yard like all the other kids I ever saw, and everybody had a great day. Sure, they all wore the same outfits, but they were perfectly comfortable, and I found out, they ARE allowed to leave if they so choose. That was just one of many positive encounters I’ve had with various groups of them.

Perhaps the people most looked down on and avoided by society are those who are physically, or mentally impaired, or disabled.  I can’t even list all the stereotypes I’ve heard over the years. Blind people can’t do anything, deaf people are dangerous in a professional kitchen, people in wheelchairs can’t go anyplace, elderly people are obsolete, mentally impaired people are stupid, etc.

Until you work with, or love somebody with an impairment or disability, you have no clue how truly capable we are. Yes we. I’m both deaf and have crippling anxiety disorder. I was not supposed to amount to anything, according to a vocational specialist who observed me in high school. Despite her naysaying, I graduated college, and went on to get my professional certification, running my own department while working a second job. I could list all my other accomplishments here, but I won’t. I am one of many examples of people who need accommodations, and cannot do EVERY job, but we CAN do plenty of other jobs just fine, thank you.

 We assume it will be too difficult to be around people who are very different than us, and the exact opposite is actually true. It is stifling to self-isolate, and limit your experiences only to those you are most used to.  People oftentimes limit themselves to the same routines in general, and unless you have a medical condition that dictates this, your mind rots in your head if you don’t stay open to learning new things.

If you do not understand something, ask. Don’t assume everybody has to be just like you, or else they are wrong. Don’t build your life around only people who are just like you. Don’t wait until you are forced to come together with people to do so.  Don’t limit yourself to what you already know, and don’t look down on people or things you don’t understand.

You don’t EVER have to understand anybody to respect their right to live their life their way.

I am just marveling at how unimportant these differences are in the grand scheme of things. When a tragedy strikes, everybody is in the same boat, up shit creek without a paddle, and have to put aside differences to get by.

Put the differences aside before shit happens, and be good to people all the time.  Your life, relationships, and experiences will be richer, more enjoyable, and you will experience more love.

Always.

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