Unity in the Body of Christ
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
My youngest child is in a really amazing preschool program. The kids play a lot, they do crafts, and they dance. They are supervised and guided, but given freedom to express their unique, developing character. There are many reasons why I am so grateful for the experience he is having.
I have been lucky to have some really good conversations with his head teacher. She is passionate about education, studies education, observes, contemplates and believes in the natural process of learning. She is a wise, studious, strong and patient person and I have developed a lot of respect for her through our conversations. As a woman of color and a mother, she has been faced with too many unnecessary, ignorant and hurtful situations. I wonder, how can we get her running a diversity program in all schools? How can I play a supportive role? We need to hear from her, our kids need to see her leading.
In preparing myself to write something about “seeing the other”, I came across this study about how being exposed to people of all body shapes and sizes makes us more comfortable around all different body types. Of course. We know we are being mentally trained to prefer “skinny and tall” when we flip through magazines, watch shows, commercials and clothing ads. What then must be happening when we flip though our history books in elementary school and memorize the presidents, the leaders of our country? How do we present this to our youth, to our students? Diversity, or lack of diversity, needs to be addressed. In this era, kids of all ages should be taught about changing this and given history lessons on women of color who have been scientists and astronauts, politicians and great doctors, engineers and writers, film directors and teachers. How do we expect anything to change if we don’t address it head on?
My son’s teacher was asked how she would approach racism in a classroom:
“I talk with individual children, and I later follow up with a group discussion facilitating open ended questions about respect, diversity, tolerance, and a small glimpse of US history.
I have also read picture books that talk about different skin complexions where they are celebrated but have a message of us all being connected as human beings. I teach art projects on skin colors where children can make self portraits using colors that they choose that represents how they see themselves. Or just a small circle time, everybody laying on their tummies, sticking their hands in the middle, and looking at all the shades we are, allowing dialogue to take place of what differences they notice, and why those differences exist.
My favorite preschool book to use with any age is The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. If children as young as two can recognize physical differences, then they are old enough to learn about positive perspectives on skin color (in a developmentally appropriate fashion, of course).”
While it is so important to open hearts and minds as Jesus’ exemplified, we must also be dedicated enough to take the time to listen to "the other" and be humble enough to lift them up into leadership roles so that all our children can grow up with these examples and be naturally comfortable around people of color who really shouldn’t even be seen as “the other”. Truly, those we deem as "other" are our neighbors, our friends and our family. They should more often be our coworkers, our bosses, our teachers, and our role models.
Similar to “seeing the other”, Jesus says “love your neighbor”. Consider this review of what Jesus said about loving our neighbor http://www.christianbiblereference.org/jneighbr.htm :
“In His sermons and parables, Jesus seeks to shock us out of our selfishness and worldliness and create in us a true passion for the welfare of our fellow men, women and children around the world. Universal love is at the very heart of Jesus' teachings; it is God's earthly work for us.
What matters to God is our love for Him and our love for each other. Wealth, power and status count for nothing in the kingdom of God. When we truly love our neighbors, we do our part to make the world a better place, and we find our own fulfillment in life.”
If diversity hasn’t found its way into your daily life, seek it out with love, respect and intention. I assure you, there is no lack of amazing people of color, it is a history that lingers on and presents division in our present day life. Without intention, we will not break the divide. We must ask ourselves, are “wealth, power and status” guiding our actions or inactions? And if “universal love… is God’s earthly work for us” what are we doing to assure that it is spread amongst us all? Furthermore, are we lifting up those who have been held back? Are we supporting those that have been unfairly treated? Are we assuring that our children see “the other” with the heart and love of God? In this present day, I believe it takes more than teaching kindness. If “the other” is not visible, how will we ever see them?
I know my son is growing and developing in such a beautiful way through this preschool program. Additionally, it provides a framework for my son to see the world and acknowledge the beauty in its fullness.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
About the Author
Leona is a wife, mother and traveler who is intrigued by how different people live. Her latest project is exploring ways that different walks of life can simplify, in order to live a fulfilling journey.