Walking a Mile in Their Shoes

A couple of women (including my wife) have gently reminded me in past months of my male privilege (if you don’t think that is real, stop reading – you probably won’t get what I’m about to write). Women’s concerns around safety are far different than mine, and it is important to be reminded of that regularly. I don’t have to look around to see who might be lurking nearby every time I leave a building, including my house. I don’t have to worry that there might be someone preparing to sexually assault me hiding around the corner. It could happen to me, sure, but the incidence is rare for people like me. For women, it is a daily fear.

Likewise, I hear people ask why particular subjects keep getting discussed. Doesn’t that just keep the problem there without resolution? Aren’t we, as so many people claimed after Pres. Obama was elected in a post-racial country? Right. Over and over, people with privilege want to stop talking about issues that concern others, as if our silence will equate to achieving our goal of equality for all. Not even close. It is always curious to me how the same people whose parents held on to racial segregation are often the same ones who don’t want America’s racist past taught in schools. This goes for almost every issue that has divided us over the last 60 years. Like a festering wound, not treating the illness doesn’t heal it; it leads to more pain, suffering, and death.

How about this? How about we consider what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and stop talking like we already have? I cannot know what it is like to be black in America. Or a person who is in the LGBTQ community. Or a woman. Or a non-English speaker. I will never know the mind-numbing choice to keep or not keep a baby. I will (I hope) never again experience poverty, hunger, or the possibility of homelessness. There are too many people flapping their lips about things they know nothing about, so how about not talking and listening, for once? I always keep in mind what a close friend said to me many years ago. He said, “Opinions are like __ – everybody’s got one.” Your opinion may be well thought out and cogent; but it also may be wrong, especially if the topic you are opining over has nothing to do with you. I don’t know what it is like to live in Israel or Palestine – I don’t know it is like to live in South or Central America, fearing for the lives of your family – I don’t know the agony of watching my child die of starvation in Africa. So I listen. I listen to people who do know and who are personally affected by the troubles of this world. That is why, the old adage goes, we have two ears and one mouth. The world would be far better if most of us would just shut up. And listen.

Prayer – We are listening, still speaking God, to You. We need to listen to each other too. Amen.

Today’s art is “Listening to God” by Shari Laurie.