We need to talk more

Penticton Herald - - OPINION - TIM SCHROEDER

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.

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