A trip to the doctor for a sinus infection this week left me sitting in a waiting room filled with strangers. Nearly all of them were like me or like people I know – white, middle aged or elderly. The one person in the room who was different was an elderly Amish woman.
If I had been asked to start a conversation with someone in that room, she’s the one I was most curious about. And it occurs to me that I am naturally drawn to people who are different than me.
I’m interested in where they’re from and how our paths crossed. What’s their world view? What do they enjoy? What do they wish people knew about them? I often am surprised at what I learn from talking to those who have a worldview different than my own.
Maybe that’s why it’s such a shock to me when people dismiss those who are different or, worse yet, bully and discriminate against them.
I like human stories and sometimes share them on Facebook – the Louisiana brothers who survived D-Day and who lived to be old men; the elderly woman who smuggled hundreds of Jewish children out of Germany; and the many strong women who we call Rosie the Riveter have all appeared on my Facebook page. I often give attention to those who can no longer speak for themselves or who don’t make it into the history books. Sometimes I share stories of people who do have a voice but who often are ignored.
More recently, I’ve been sharing the stories of people of color. Maybe no one is reading or watching the videos but I like to at least give them a platform. It’s healthy to hear the human side of the story as opposed to the headline version of what’s happening in the world.
I’m convinced of two things:
1. It’s easy to hate people you don’t know.
2. People who think they hate history believe that it’s all about memorizing dates, places and names of people long dead. And that’s not what matters most when studying history.
If you think about it, we are living history right now. That Amish woman has a story to tell that will be a valuable thread in the fabric of our history someday just as the female biracial pilot who told her story on YouTube does. Just as you and I do.
Someday, historians and kids in schools across the nation will study 2020 American history. Wouldn’t you like them to know how you lived and contributed? What you think of our world today?
Go look for the people and the stories that don’t make the history books. You never know what you might find.