Several weeks ago I was at the airport waiting to board a flight I should have boarded 20 minutes earlier. I started people watching. I noticed a young girl, probably about three years old, happily playing with a number of children also waiting to board. The staff started calling families, one by one, to board until at last this little girl realized she was the only child left. “Mommy!” she spoke out. “There ain’t no kids left.” “Nope, no more kids.” The mother replied. The little girl looked around then looked up at her mother. “Just people.” The mother glanced down and laughed. “You’re not people?” The girl looked up, with an expression that suggested she thought her mom was a bit slow. “You’re people. I’m kids.”
I laughed out loud upon hearing this conversation, marvelling at the perspective of children. It is funny though, the way this little girl was completely confident in her assessment and, presumably, sure that her mother wasn’t quite as intelligent as she should be for even questioning her. To her, her mother and all of the other adults waiting to board were people. She, on the other hand, was kids. I laughed because this cute little girl was the one who had it wrong . . . in a way. Of course she was right, she is “kids” but she’s also people. She was missing part of the equation, part of the vocabulary that defines her and joins her with the rest of humanity.
Thinking on this had me questioning how often I may miss part of the equation, fully feeling that I’m in the know when really I’m the one who’s not seeing the whole picture, and how often other people do the same. It’s funny when a three year old does this – cute, endearing. But not so much when I do it, or when other people do it: People who should be cognizant enough to understand the world from a broader perspective. It’s especially not funny when it’s something important or when those “other” people are governments, religious or community groups, or even entire nations.
The mother just laughed and smiled when her daughter said this, making no attempt to correct her. Not a big deal in this situation. But so often people are left to think their thoughts and hold their views of the world without someone in a position of authority, of love and respect, showing them the error of their ways. Some extreme examples: Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, specific members of the Black Panthers, church groups who misguidedly become hate groups towards the gay and lesbian community.
When you get to the heart of it, a lot of the hate and destruction that resulted from these groups came from a lack of understanding of who they were and who the people they directed their hate towards were. Rather than seeing the whole picture of us all being humans, all capable of good and evil, all receivers of joy and sorrow, all born deserving love and the opportunity to be happy, they saw people as inherently different, inherently less, and therefore deserving of hate.
Yes, these are extreme examples, yes you and I would probably never be guilty of the blindness portrayed by people who could be party to such pure hate, but I bet we all also have our own ways of seeing others as one thing, us as something different, missing the fact that at the core we’re all just people. And because of that, we may be missing out on a lot of good or doing harm that we don’t even realize (either directly, or indirectly from how the way we view the world influences those around us).
Maybe we see overweight people as fat and lazy and therefore different from us, less worthy in some way. Maybe we see thin people as obsessively vain and stuck up. Maybe we see people of a different religion as pushy and ignorant and judgmental. Maybe we see people of a different race or cultural group as nothing but the stereotypes that exist about them. Maybe . . . and the list goes on.
The next time I have a snap thought or judgment about someone or realize my thoughts about a person (or people group) may be seeing only one aspect of that person’s humanity, I hope to think of that little girl and remember I’m not a child, those limited views are not ok, and definitely not funny. I hope to remind myself – we’re all people.