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Dropping the 'us before them' way of thinking

“It's hard to hate someone whose story you know.”

I read these words early this morning, the floor in my house still chilly as I padded my way to the kitchen to make coffee. It churned around in my head, staying with me as the coffee slid hot and fragrant down my throat, warming me. The words discomfited me.

I find the air to be strange these days, words and meanings veiled behind a sharply barbed glossary of newly acceptable language. “Anything goes these days, doesn't it?” many say as the clutching of old ways remains comfortable in their grasp. I understand this feeling.

I do ascribe to a certain openness, an inclusive sort of wording that moves old ideas out and new ones into the open, ideas that used to stay silent and strikingly still for fear of repercussion. I would like to think that we've come a long way in accepting new notions and ways — new peoples — leaving behind a past of condemnation and repression. I want to think we have moved forward. I only know that my faults and downfalls are mine alone to ask forgiveness for.

It's hard to hate someone whose story you know.

I am guilty of staying inside the comfortable box I create for myself and family. But lately I've admonished myself to step out of it, to put myself in situations that are uncomfortable. I crave new faces and stories and deep understandings of conflict. I want to know people that look different than me and get inside their heads. I don't want to fear them, just to know them and their truths. I want to hear their stories that reduce me to a pile of jelly.

Maybe it's the writer inside of me that longs to pull the tiny frayed edges, tugging gently, and turn it into a raging pile of threads that takes over the room as emotions and truth fill me with their undeniability.

I've begun that process to a point by taking on projects that allow words and stories to tumble out of others' brains and through my fingertips. I never considered myself to be much of an interviewer as I'm a better writer from pages and pages of notes and thoughts, culling my gray matter for the right tone and angle. But in allowing myself to step into discomfort and take in others' stories they want told, I'm learning there is so much more floating in the air than we realize.

We become so staunchly pointed inward that we fail to smell the scent of despair, poverty and indifference, choosing instead our brightly lit and candle-scented homes as barriers. I am guilty of this, but as I've starkly discovered, it's hard to learn and know someone when we don't drop our defenses and arm ourselves only with love.

It's hard to hate someone whose story you know.

So I work on letting them in, hearing them out, carving out a space for others to fit into my hermetically sealed world. Bit by bit, chunk by chunk, tiny fractions of my heart expand and fill with air as I let others in. I do it in my own way, allowing their words and stories to seal my soul against hatred and fear and the balm of writing carry out its measure.

We're meant to share each other and the good we have, not look to find the worst part of a person only in looking at their countenance or pigment, religion or clothing, judgement swift and harsh before they even speak. These words are not simplistic in their meaning nor uttered lightly.

Fear, or rather a “taking care of our own first” mentality is detrimental to society. Of course we care for our own, but without caring for others — all others — as much as ourselves, we lose sight of what makes our rapidly turning world a better place to begin with.

Because it's hard to hate someone whose story you know.

Published: February 24, 2017
New Article ID: 2017702249973