The day before Easter this year, I ran into an engaged couple I know. The groom-to-be is an attorney (eerily similar to Patrick Bateman) and the bride-to-be, well, she defines her existence by the size of her engagement ring.
I did not say hi to them because the last three times I saw them, they pretended to not see me, so on this occasion, I acknowledged their existence, then got on with life, waiting to order a medium coffee at Starbucks–a local Starbucks that does not correct you, saying, “You mean grande? This particular day, however, this couple decided to break their habit of ignoring me.
“Phil!” The engagement ring spoke with so much vigor she gained permission to ignore me for our next three run-ins.
“Hi, how are you,” I said, shaking Patrick Bateman’s hand, then his fiancées.
“Just getting some coffee. You?”
“Pretty much the same.”
“Great, how have you been,” she asked, getting the obligatory question out of the way.
“Great,” I said, knowing you can never say anything but great, good, or pretty good. Then you ask how they are.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “going to the gym, reading a bit…you?”
“We’re going to church. Are you?”
“No,” I responded.
“I’m not really into church,” I told her, acknowledging the wall that slowly, yet inevitably, began growing between us–a fence between neighbors, a language barrier between friends.
“Well, you should come to our church. The way you’re dressed, you’re overdressed,” she said with spunk, pointing to my t-shirt and jeans.
The wall was there. I could have said, “I don’t believe in God,” but that would have been interpreted as: You are different. You are the Other. You are the marginalized group. I am Christian, you are not. You lack morality, you…
O.K, you get the point.
But all I said was, “Yeah, I’ve been to those churches before,” followed by something else, equally as dry and barely responsive. I had just a limited amount of responses.
I could have said, “Sorry, I’m not going to church. I’m an atheist, but I respect that you are going to church.”
Sadly, that is not the case. Because of the wall. The wall creates a line of division preventing two people from understanding each other. The wall says you are different, you are coming into my territory. I do not understand your motives, your intentions, your beliefs, your traditions, and everything about your life.
The wall marginalizes and depending on the circumstances, accepts one person or group as the preferred and stronger, and the other group as the Other; the marginalized, the weaker, the one to question and be weary of. There is a misunderstanding there.
There are seven billion human beings on Earth.
Before we are Christians, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, Zoroastrians, Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians, we are human.
You have probably already experienced this, based on the fact that you have a religious, political, and socioeconomic background. We are different, and that is fantastic, but without the wall, we are still both human beings, right? Do we get anything from the wall besides miscommunication and judgment?
If we exclude people from our lives because they are different, we will surely miss out on great people. Take it not just from someone who has been misinterpreted, but from someone who has missed out on others. Tear the wall down and get to know someone.