During the past few months, I have been doing some ministry with The POLIS Institute in Orlando, Florida, Over my time in ministry with this organization that helps bring dignity and share the love of Christ to so many throughout the Orlando area, I am amazed at how much I took for granted as a white male in this country. I have known for some time that I am automatically elevated to a higher status in the United States because of my race. Even without trying or wanting to be elevated in any way by how I am perceived or viewed by someone else, I am.
The POLIS Institute works at building the fundamental worth of a human being and points out and empowers others to reverse the indignities that they face within their communities. As a person who has always thought of himself as very open minded and not racist at all, I was reminded the other day that I am just as guilty as the next person.
I was walking in downtown Sanford the other day and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young African-American man with his pants saggy far below his rear end. Immediately, I was stereotyping this young man for what I perceived was his personality and that he was just some young guy up to no good. Then the next moment, I caught sight of two little boys around three years old running toward this young many giggling and laughing as they were playing. I realized that this young man was their father and he was out walking them toward a nearby playground area.
As I saw this interaction between the young man and his sons, I started to smile. The young man and I looked at each other and he smiled back at me with a pride that every Dad knows. As I kept walking by them, I felt ashamed that I also was guilty of stereotyping people. I never looked at myself as the kind of person who did this toward others, but in that instance walking downtown, I did. And then, as I realized what I had done, I heard a little voice in my mind remind me that this young man was a Dad just like me. A man who loved his kids and wanted the best in life for them too. As I walked away, I was reminded that Jesus Christ died for all of us and that this young man and his sons were my brothers in Christ too.
All of us have a long way to go in our understanding of one another. As I have been learning at The POLIS Institute, we should all be in a higher form of building relationships. As a follower of Jesus, it is being reminded that I am absolutely no better than anyone else, even if my pants are held above my hip and not sagging far below. Every person deserves self-worth, dignity and have the feeling that they can provide for themselves and their family. Everyone deserves to feel like they can amount to something. The other day was a much needed reminder for me, and one I think for all of us, that we all need to have empathy toward others around us. We each need to put ourselves in their shoes… or even into wearing their saggy pants.
Come worship with us any Sunday at 10:00, to feel the welcome and warmth of a community of faith who are on a journey seeking to grow deeper in their love for God through Jesus Christ and for one another.