I have often heard people say, “They just aren’t our ‘type’ of people, we wouldn’t really enjoy them, they’re so different than us.” Sometimes it makes me wonder, “Why?”. Not so much the “why” related to the reasons these people feel they are such polar opposites, so much so that they cannot even associate. But the “why” related to the reason having different kinds of people who associate would be an issue for people. By our very creation, nature, and history…we are different. We look different. We sound different. We have our own thoughts and feelings. We experience the world based upon the way in which our feet are planted upon the soil beneath them. Our point of view, perspective, reactions, well everything really – depends upon all that went before. Of course we are all very different from the people who surround us on this extremely crowded planet. So, it is the “Why?” that pulls my thoughts.
One is not expected to feel an immediate affection for every person whose topsy-turvy, unpredictable journey from the beginning of their life to its end has placed them directly in the way of our own similarly unstable and confusing journey to the same inevitable ending. One is not even really expected to have an urge to get to know all of them, and in fact, often one doesn’t bother to do so. But this seems so sad and unhelpful to me. How is it that we don’t for a moment stop to consider the reason such people have stepped directly into the way of our striding through life? How is it we don’t ask, “Is there some reason this person who for whatever reason irritates me, has been placed right here in front of me?” I know that when someone has disrupted my ever so well thought out life by having the nerve to be different than me – well – I become intrigued, even to the point of growing curious – it becomes appealing for me to see what someone who is not “exactly” like me is “exactly” like.
Let’s be honest, it is comforting and even simple to go through life surrounded by people who tell you what you prefer to hear. It is lovely to have everyone around you gladly echo your own thoughts – validating you 24/7 and helping you feel ever so right, after all, everybody else feels like you do, right? So that must be the truth… the only way to believe, think, and feel about the issues at hand. Right? Of course, because we choose that which is easy, comfortable, and helps us reinforce our view of the world we live in. And truth be told, we tend to seek out and even invite in those who best fit that view. Why? Because it feels good and offers us acceptance and a sense of being part of the greater community around us. So, why let people who “rock the boat” be a part of our experience at all? Because we need them.
It is in the ones we feel are the most un-like ourselves that we often find a lesson we need to learn. It is by listening to thoughts unlike our own that we are able to grow, expand, and come to appreciate that the world is filled with views and experiences we ourselves have not had the benefit of, but can glean the knowledge from just by seeing the world through another’s eyes. Why indeed. If I choose to only hear opinions and thoughts like my own, I am ignorant. If I am unwilling to allow someone whose approach is different than mine, or who has pain and struggle hidden behind their eyes, to become a friend or at least an acquaintance that I might better come to understand and appreciate that which is different, I am no better a human than I was yesterday. It is in learning to accept, care about, and appreciate that which makes others so very different – that we grow and bloom, becoming someone worthwhile in the world.
So easy, to befriend only those who we “get”. So simple to embrace and show kindness to those we feel a kinship with. Nothing worthwhile, my friends, is ever simple. Harder, so much harder, to make the decision that different is not bad. Harder, so much harder, to embrace someone whose perspective, experience, and journey, has made them different than ourselves. Hard, so hard, to admit once we allow these people to show us the world they see while standing in their sometimes tattered shoes…that our own beliefs and opinions may be just a little less “right”. After all, if they are right, and we are right…who then is wrong? It is not easy, but it is necessary. Some of the most important people in my life have been the ones most different from myself. They were the ones with the courage to show me another way of thinking. They were the ones who challenged me to be more than I had been yesterday. And they are the ones who linger in my memory as I grow older. Did they remain in my life forever? No. But some stayed long enough for me to smile as I think of them. And too, Robert Frost said “Nothing gold can stay”, much as the autumn leaves fallen in beautiful blankets upon the ground, blown away too soon, so too are the people who fall into and out of our lives. It is meant to be that nature and lives have seasons and cycles.
Take the hand of someone you feel is too different. Offer the seat next to you at the table to someone you think would not fit into your group. Extend an invitation to someone who seems too often uninvited. Do so with an opened mind and a willing heart, and see in this person perhaps someone who can teach you a little something. Odds are, they’ve been set before you by, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever you believe in, for a reason. Odds are that these people will be temporary, and not pass this way again. The fact remains, it is by entertaining those who seemed unworthy and most different, that people in fact stood in the presence of the angels.