How can we cultivate an open-handed, as well as open-minded approach to the "other" in 2017 America? Why does it make sense to do so?
(Please note: I wrote this well over a year before the 2016 Presidential elections in the U.S. Many things have changed since then, but these issues have been on my heart for a long time. I haven't had a chance to share this post until now.)
Just the other day I was driving along and two young women caught my eye. They were standing in the doorway of a local sandwich shop.
Nothing remarkable, right?
But they stood out because the two lovely ladies were wearing hijab, the Muslim scarf.
Why This Message is Even More Relevant Now
Now, you could send the political correctness police on me. In America, I’m not supposed to point out that these women are different from the mainstream, right?
In fact, I might even be labeled as prejudiced, or even racist. At the minimum, you might cast me as intolerant.
Whoa! Wait a moment, and hear me out!
I didn’t look at these two women with suspicion at all! In fact, that is the danger we face in these days – clumping all people who, in this case, practice (in broad terms) a common faith and labeling them.
I didn’t even look at them with curiosity, like they were some alien beings. After all, I live in California. There are plenty of alien beings (myself included) in my part of the world!
No, rather, I looked at them with interest. With an open-minded and open-handed desire to befriend them. With a heart of love.
You see, my intercultural instincts wanted to know them right away. I wanted to stop the car right in the middle of the road and go up and meet them, make them feel welcome.
But that is how I felt. If I were any bit curious, it was with a desire to help them feel as if this place, this relatively small town I live in, wanted them here. To show them an open-handed America.
This makes the brazen assumption they are not from here. Which, as well, could be 100% wrong.
But, my point here in writing this short piece is to encourage you to keep your eyes open for those people – both the obvious and less obvious – who might be from the "outside" and welcome them in. This is the type of culture and environment we need to nurture.
Do Not Misunderstand Me
I am not advocating handouts here. The metaphor "open-handed" refers to a welcoming, hospitable choice, not a free ride. Just want to make that clear. I am not suggesting we should welcome people into 2017 American without any scrutiny. But let's remember: hatred knows no bounds. It is not limited to ideology or religious belief. It can topple a tower in New York – yes. But it can also shoot up innocent lives in a school library or movie theater. It comes from within and can express itself through horrific violence if allowed to fester and grow.
There are some very vocal types who are suggesting we build walls to keep all the “undesirables” out. They use the argument of safety. And I don’t deny, anything we do – or don’t do in this regard – carries risk.
We need to protect our nation, yes. But we need to do so with prudence and skill. And not with prejudice and racial profiling.
No question, many banter, argue and pontificate about this subject more eloquently than I do. I’m not attempting to jump into the political fray here.
But I do believe that fear, isolationism, xenophobia, and division produce the greater evil. Sadly, politicians especially have used it to drive the vote, all the way to the White House.
Our government does have an obligation to do its best to protect its people and its interest. We recognize that and spend billions each year to secure that safety. And we must continue with every reasonable effort to maintain and improve upon those high standards, no doubt.
But our nation also thrives on change. Through that change, we welcome diversity, and it’s that very diversity that infuses creativity, innovation and energy into our society. This is what we’re best at!
The Bottom Line
I believe we gain when we choose love over hate. When we choose an open-handed policy based upon the best ingredient, love. And when we choose to include rather than exclude (within reason). We gain when we choose open hands over closed fists.
What do you think about this very timely & relevant issue?