Do you remember a time when you were jolted into a bigger reality? When you were challenged to develop empathy for someone not like you?
Decades ago, West Central Illinois farm country was home. Taught that racism was a Southern (not Illinois) phenomenon, I was prejudiced and didn’t even know it.
A presentation by journalist John Howard Griffin at a teacher in-service began to open my eyes. Having written about racial equality, he had begun a regimen of exposure to ultraviolet light, oral medication, and skin dyes to turn his skin black. In 1959 he toured the South by bus and hitchhiking, experiencing rejection from restaurants, hotels and even restrooms, rejection he had not known as a White man.
I began to read many other biographies and histories of those from other cultures. Visits to Inupiat gatherings in Nome and Shishmaref (Alaska) opened my eyes and ears to others. I still pray to be more empathetic of others’ experiences and beg forgiveness from those I have unknowingly slighted or insulted. I’m still working to overcome my prejudices and to see God’s face in all I meet.
This message is excerpted from “Trying to understand another’s reality” by Phyllis Rude from the June 19, 2014, blog of the Women of the ELCA.
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