Recently I have had the honor of sitting at a table with a diverse group of women for the sole purpose of talking about racism, culture, privilege, and reconciliation. These words within the last year have filled social media posts and fueled worldwide trending hashtags. So a few of us gathered at a table to listen to each other’s stories, learn how these words affect us, and how can we personally and collectively heal, stand for justice, and live in peace.
As the headlines and viral news videos tell stories of beatings, deaths, riots, and protests, it can be overwhelming to know how to not only process the information and experiences there but how to find hope and peace in the midst of everything.
When I sit at the table with these women it doesn’t solve racism, it doesn’t change discrimination or put an end to ignorance, but as we talk and get to know each other, it changes us. As we listen to each other, look into each other’s eyes, view the beauty of each other’s various skin tones, our biases and prejudices are forced to change. Through our time at the table, we learn to really see and hear each other, to empathize with each other’s experiences, to admit what we don’t know or don’t understand, to humble ourselves.
Ignorance, prejudice, and many societal ills in our world can begin to change through relationship. We ignore, prejudge, and assume a lot about people we don’t know or don’t understand. One of the ways we can change our own ignorance to knowledge and our prejudice to understanding is to build relationship with people who are different from us.
If we look in our community or circle of friends and only see people who look like us, think like us, or believe like us, we do ourselves, our families and our communities a disservice. We leave ourselves vulnerable to becoming close-minded, ignorant, and unloving, online and in real life.
Changing the world starts with being willing to change ourselves. When we begin to expand our circle of friends we will find ourselves less likely to hide behind “us and them” statements because in our friendships with people who are different from us we discover the beauty in our differences and the humanity in our similarities.
Think of one person in your life who is different from you. Take time to get to know them and listen to their story. Don’t make friendship a science project or a checklist of action items. Be humble. Be present. Be willing to be wrong. Take the time to listen, learn, and grow from the lessons and experiences of someone else.