Just what was God thinking when God made the critical decision to create us all different?
I have a beautiful 6 month old red headed granddaughter whose father is Jewish and whose mother is not. I have a beautiful 2 year-old grandson whose mother is African American and whose father is not. Their bright, little faces bring joy to my life but I know the clock is ticking. In a few short years, they’ll be cast into a world where even the smallest of differences become the source of unwanted attention.
Unless we teach our children to honor the differences with which God created them, my grandchildren will find school to be an awfully difficult experience. Don’t think your grandchildren will have it any easier because God created all of them with differences of one kind or another.
Whether they are different because of their height or weight, the color of their skin or the size of their feet, their abilities, disabilities or accent, or because of who their parents are or are not, the part of town where they live, their sexuality, where you buy their clothes, the length of their nose or the cut of their hair, their score on a spelling test or how quickly they are chosen for which team…your grandchild is as different from others as are mine.
Unless you and I do something to change the culture, those differences can be hazardous to the health of the grandchildren we love.
What is it about our culture that renders our children’s differences a source of scorn rather than a reason to celebrate their lives? It’s too easy to blame the schools. Certainly they have a role in prevention, a role made important because our children are in their care much of the day. Teachers see behaviors that parents may miss. But be careful not to put the entire load on them.
By the time a child arrives at their door for the first day of kindergarten, each is aware of how much difference those differences make. It’s also too easy to simply blame parents. I wouldn’t discount the significance of good parenting and the imperative that parents teach children to respect others, particularly those who are different. But there is something more sinister, the culture awaiting our children outside their home.
Some of it begins unfortunately in our churches. How many of us attend churches where the differences between God’s people are the source of judgment? The basis of that judgment may be dogma, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender or gender roles, color, culture or lifestyle. Children learn quickly that the community to which they belong has a certain amount of suspicion, even disdain for differences.
What starts in churches soon arrives in legislative chambers. Witness Tennessee where the legislature has amended an anti-bullying law to allow bullying if the bully has a philosophical or political motive. The anti-bullying law became a pro-bullying message.
And the culture beyond is yet more poisonous. Television, movies, magazines, billboards, the Internet or other cultural conveyances teach what one is expected to be, how one is expected to act and the expectation of conformity.
So…just what was God thinking when God created us with all of these differences? Perhaps God figured we had the capacity to understand that in our differences we were still created in God’s image. Perhaps God’s hope for the world is that our differences would fit together like the myriad pieces of a puzzle to create something extraordinary.
God would have been the first to shed tears as young Alex made his way to the train yard. I believe the tears were for us. As God welcomed Alex into a place where differences are honored, indeed where differences originated, God’s eye would have turned back to earth in the expectation that those who remain would have the capacity to change, to teach, to accept and to love…in memory of Alex and all the others and all of our differences.