Seeing Without Blinders

When I was in college I took a human diversity class. There is a day from that class that will forever be etched in my mind.

Before I tell you about that, let me preface with the disclaimer that I am fairly na├»ve about discrimination. I haven’t ever really been subject to it. And if you’ve ever met me you know that I really like to please people – I like them to be happy, I don’t like to disappoint them, and I try to help anyone however I can.

Last week I volunteered at my church’s vacation Bible school. It’s a week that I love. Seeing adults and children and youth all work together and become friends all while sharing about the love of Jesus. 

On Wednesday, while 130 children and 99 adults filled rooms and prepared to start moving from outdoors (rec) to in (crafts) and back and forth again (snack and missions and Bible study) I watched the sky and my phone to see a massive storm approaching. I saw that locations needed shifted so that no people were outside in the storm. We certainly didn’t want any person to get pelted by hail or struck by lightning. 

I started to shift plans to accommodate what was needed. They weren’t the best - and not all the leadership was together to unanimously agree on the plan - but eventually we got it all worked out and everyone was safe in comfort of the main church building.

As the night wrapped up, we shuttled kids to cars under umbrellas. One of the volunteers called out to me, “Look! A rainbow!” I walked to the side of the building and as I looked up directly over our church was a gorgeous, vibrant rainbow. And as I looked to my left, was a partially collapsed tent where 130 children would have been during their snack time.

I posted a photo of the rainbow to Instagram. And kept an image of the tent in my phone. 

Sitting in my human diversity class, full of a room of very diverse college students, the attention somehow turned to me. I hadn’t participated in the discussion – I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to add. Perhaps my silence was interpreted as admission of participating in sexism, classism… racism. I’ll never really know. What I do know is that my professor approached me. She stood in front of me with an outstretched arm and finger directed at me. It’s really her words that I will never forget, “Your people enslaved my people.”

I stared at her, puzzled, comprehending but bewildered, not totally processing what she had just labeled me as. As I spent all of 2-3 seconds filtering (I didn’t really have a filter at 22). My confusion turned to amusement, and before my mind could stop my mouth I spat out these words. “My ‘people’ were in Russia and didn’t enslave anybody.”

I have replayed that encounter in my head more times that I care to admit. It’s true, my dad’s family didn’t come to America until well after the Civil War. There’s more likelihood that my “people” were Bolshevik’s than slave owners. But because of the perception of that individual I was lumped in with all other white Americans. 

How many times have you lost sight of the big picture because of limited vision?

How many times have you chosen to see the rainbow even amongst the chaos and destruction around you?

There are more than likely times when both are true. We look at just what we know, perceive or generalize, without knowing the full truth of the situation or circumstance. Sometimes we want to only see the good without the clutter and mess going on around it.

Today, I hope to see the whole picture. I hope that I will take time to not only look at what’s directly in front of me, but to also see the rest. I hope that I will THINK before I speak and not let my proclivities get the best of me.


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