We need to talk more
Ihave never before regretted not taking a Selfie. In fact, I have often inwardly scoffed at people frequently observed with their phone at arm’s length to ensure “they” are in the picture. There was, however, was one Selfie I regret not taking this summer.
I was walking down main street in Nelson, which is an experience all on its own. As I rounded a corner I almost literally bumped into two Jehovah’s Witnesses complete with their magazine rack.
What added colour to the situation was the fact that they were engaged in an amiable conversation with two, young, white-shirted Mormon missionaries.
I really should have continued walking but simply could not help myself.
Interrupting their conversation I asked whether they had a sense of humour. They were somewhat wary in their response, but affirmed they did.
“Good,” I replied. “What we have here is the making of a script for a great joke. You see I’m a Baptist preacher.” A Baptist preacher, two Mormons and two JWs walked into a bar…” If only I had a picture!
Fortunately, they saw the humour in our situation and together we stood on the street corner laughing at the irony of the five of us standing together, talking with each other just like normal people talk.
The experience led me to consider how quick I am to thrust people into categories. Without a second thought I can label and stereotype people without ever having shared a word.
That street corner meeting wasn’t the only experience of the summer to cause me to reflect on my attitude toward others. We were crossing Kootenay Lake on the Balfour Ferry when we were joined by a group of bikers. I need to make a distinction. We were cyclists, had no vehicle other than our bicycles but they were real Bikers with rumbling Harleys, huge biceps and provocative tattoos.
I immediately reached the conclusion that they were scary creatures and we’d be wise to stick to ourselves. That stereotype was quickly challenged when one of the bikers approached us and asked about what it was like cycling in the Kootenays. He confided that he would love to do it, but that he was too afraid to ride on the edge of the highway on a bicycle. I couldn’t believe my ears. A big, bad biker too afraid to do what we were doing.
To coin a phrase from elementary school days, what I learned on my summer vacation is that I need to talk to people more and stereotype them less. Two conversations consisting of less than three minutes each proved my usual conclusions about people are often woefully ill-informed.
One day the Founder of my faith, Jesus of Nazareth, was having dinner at the home of Levi. Many of Levi’s former business associates were also present. The scene caused the religious elite of the day to frown and raise this question: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Why indeed? Perhaps it’s because Jesus knew the value of getting to know the real people behind the labels so often attached to them.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church and chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets and RCMP.