Perspective changes everything
I need you to use your imagination. Imagine that you are a part of a religion that has extremists that are doing terrible things around the world. Imagine that you, legally, move to another country to have a better, safer life because you don't want yourself or your family around these radical people. Imagine that you feel towards these people the same way people completely outside of your religion feel, but there isn't anything you can do to change them. Imagine that you are doing everything you can to contribute to your new country to make it the best possible place you can. Imagine that you're raising your children and helping others raise their children to be loving, accepting, and dependable adults. Now imagine that despite all of your efforts, you're still hated just for being who you are and something that you can't change. This is the reality for so many people. This has been the reality for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and many more. If you look at history, this has happened from the beginning of time. I grew up in a small city with very little diversity. When I went to college, I still didn't find myself surrounded by people very different than I was. My parents raised me going to church and to believe in, love, and serve God. I, like a lot of people, had a rebellious phase and had a lot of things happen where I questioned God and my faith along the way, but I always have come back. When I moved to Jacksonville, it was the first time I ever lived in such a large city and... the first time I actually came in contact with people that are different than I am. To be completely honest, I had irrational fears of some of these people based on race, religion, and almost anything else that I didn't understand. As life often is, it was complicated. I spent a lot of time helping my mom get to doctor visits, procedures, and just spending time with her...she was my best friend. I had a baby within a couple of years, and my mom's health continued to decline. As most everyone knows, my mom died almost 5 years ago. This changed me, as you can imagine, forever. Yes, I had been an adult for a while, but it was the first time that I was having to rely on my instincts and my faith and not having my solid "go to" person. A few years later, I had another baby and that came with a whole new set of struggles and learning to adapt to having a child that will, though thankfully have a great quality of life, never be completely normal. Through all of this, and other things that happen, I decided I wanted to really try and learn about others. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and really learn beyond what you see on TV, the internet, etc. about people that aren't like me. I wanted to be able to truly love others, and to do that, I believe we have to at least try to understand them. I want to show my girls that, while I pray they grow to know and love Jesus, we need to love those that aren't like us. I want others to not feel awkward around me and fear they're being judged. My mom always taught me, by example, that I'm never better than anyone else. My life has been filled with struggles of every size and kind, but the constant has been Jesus. I'm not here to try and convince anyone that Jesus is right for you or that any faith is right for you because the fact is, everyone is different and not everyone is going to want to know Jesus. I have friends that are Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah's witnesses, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Wiccan, Atheist, and probably others I don't even know about. I want you all to know that while I hold tight to my Christian faith and love for Jesus, I love you all and I am going to better educate myself so that I can be a better friend. I want to lead, by example, my girls to love everyone and judge no one. We all have messed up things in our lives and have done things we regret, but that doesn't define or determine our future. No matter who you are and where you are in life, you have something to give and a purpose to your days. It's not easy to put yourself in someone else's shoes...especially if you have lived somewhere that doesn't have a diverse population...but it's essential that we learn to love everyone and treat people as individuals instead of grouping them all in various categories. There are definitely people that profess to be Christians that I wouldn't care to be associated with and I promise you that no two people are exactly alike!