Chris and I didn’t have much money for the first 15 years of our marriage – enough to pay our bills, but not much more than that – so we never really got to go on vacation, unless we went off-season when things were really cheap. One year, we were able to save our money and rent a house on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, during the peak season. Our son was 2, so we had to haul all kinds of things quite a distance to get to the beach, but it was well worth it. One afternoon, I was sitting in the house reading a book by Robin Cook. Cook is a medical doctor turned novelist and a great writer. My son came over and asked, as all 2-year-old children do, “Who’s that?” I told him that he wrote this book and that he was a doctor, like mommy. His surprise was adorable, and he ran to Chris, shouting that “Boys can be doctors too!!” We looked at each other and smiled – yes, boys can be doctors too.
Our reality is based on our experience and our learning. If we teach children that boys and girls have limits based on gender or sex, they grow up believing this to be true. If a child experiences only female teachers, this is their reality. If you only see one kind of person in particular roles, that becomes how you define who can do that job, and who is not. One time my wife had to take my car to see her family in New Jersey. and when she stopped at a toll booth, the woman said, “You don’t look like a minister!” (There was a sticker on the window). Of course, our experience of knowing women who were clergy made this statement seem ridiculous, but, when you think about it, most people (still!) think that only men can answer that call.
Boys can play with dolls – girls can be firefighters – people can be a different gender on the inside that they show on the outside – we can love people who are the same. or different (fill in the blank) as we are – the world is not binary; it is complicated and multi-faceted. We learn from the world around us, and while that learning, if harmful, can be undone, it can also cause us to hold views that are hurtful and wrong. One of my favorite memes is of two children of different races hugging each other. It says, “Nobody is born a bigot”, and there are few truer ideas than that. This message has been relayed for centuries – whether is it the lessons we learn from “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific, or “Teach Your Children” from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, or the Apostle Paul telling the churches that in Christ, “There is no male or female, no slave or free”; the truth about humanity is that we are all born with the ability to love and accept those who are different from us. If we hate or distrust others because they are not like us, it is a choice we have made, not something God has built into us. It might be a good start to stop blaming God for our failure to evolve.
There’s a lot of love in the world, and there’s a lot of hate – and we know what both of those emotions can do. We know that if we raise children to believe they are limited or bigoted, they will be limited and bigoted. If we raise them to be their best with the gifts they have, they will do that too. We shape the people we come in contact with, whether we believe it or not. We are role models, both positively and negatively. We choose. Let’s choose wisely.
Prayer – God, help us, Your imperfect and flawed creations, to do our best with each other. We make a difference, no matter what we do. Help us to do the best we can. Amen.
Today’s art just caught my eye – it is a psychedelic banner by Rebecca Wang.