This has taken me all day. I woke up thinking I would be writing about one subject, but then posts on social media caught me off guard and here I am writing about something completely different.
I stopped midway through my day to have lunch with a very dear friend. That is always time well spent. She and I run in many of the same online circles therefore this subject came up with her as well.
Even now as I sit here, firmly convinced this is the subject God wants me to write about, my stomach is in knots and I’m a little trembly. I don’t go out on many limbs; I’m too afraid of falling or worse. In today’s world just speaking my mind with an opinion that is different is enough to be alienated, ostracized, called names or yelled at publicly. Fear keeps me silent. And that is precisely what the folks who yell want to happen. This is God moving me to speak up and risk the consequences.
In an earlier post I wrote about my feelings about belonging. Every single person is born with a need to feel they belong…somewhere, to someone, with a group of people. We were not created to be islands. God puts us in a family unit. We crave community; a group of people of like interests, viewpoints, ancestry, ethnicity, and even gender. Do we all belong in every group? No, of course not.
One of my favorite ancestry.com commercials involves a woman named Lyn (follow link to watch the video) who found that her DNA indicated much of her ancestry came from Nigeria. She did the research and proudly wore a traditional garment and hat. This gave her a sense of identity, of belonging.
I am not only 25% Chinese, but also have Scottish ancestry that has been in this country since the early 1700’s. I love that! I love that my paternal grandmother’s parents came from Hong Kong to Hawaii sometime around 1898 and built a business (grocery) and that my dad was born there in 1924. His mother died a year after giving birth from tuberculosis so he never really had the chance to know her or her family. I can only assume he was ostracized by her family and my grandfather was left alone to raise this baby.
Being biracial in his day was quite different than today. When they left the islands and came to the United States – Hawaii wasn’t a state yet – I’m sure he was met with a great deal of prejudice. He never talked about it, but that generation didn’t. They just worked hard and kept to themselves. He didn’t feel he belonged anywhere except within the walls of his home.
Niche Group Open To All
In my little niche world of fiber arts – spinning yarn, knitting, crochet, etc there is a movement to include BIPOC in our world. If you don’t know what BIPOC is, don’t feel bad, I didn’t either until this morning. It stands for Black & Indigenous People Of Color. I was actually quite surprised as I have always viewed the fiber arts as a very open and welcoming group. Color, gender, sexual orientation, none of it matters. We all love our yarn and tools and like to be around other people who love them too.
Attend a fiber show, or other gathering of folks who love this kind of stuff and there is a cross section of the local population. Where I live in Texas, that means not only Black, but folks from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Vietnamese, Hispanic, and the rest of us white folks. As a yarn shop owner I welcomed this same mix of folks into my shop and tried to help them with whatever their needs were. They were all invited to participate in the life of the store – the knitting groups, the classes, special events.
Some joined us, many did not. I am sure that most of them felt out of place, as if they didn’t belong because there was often no one else there that looked like them. Is that my fault? Is their fault? Is there fault to assess at all? Who among us automatically feel a part of a group even one with common interests? I don’t know anyone who does. Feeling a part of a group takes time and effort on everyone’s part.
I acknowledge that this is a very sensitive subject. My experience is not your experience. I have very little experience of being the only member of my race/ethnicity in a gathering. But like all human beings, I have experienced the pain of exclusion and the feeling of being different, disliked, and rejected. The pain is real and something I don’t wish for anyone.
We live in a country where we believe each person is created equally with certain inalienable rights. Anything that denies a person life, liberty, work, or the pursuit of happiness based on skin color, gender or sexual orientation is not just wrong it is illegal.
We are guaranteed equal access and opportunity not equality of outcome.
I encourage all of us to open our eyes and hearts towards other people, regardless of skin color or other outward appearance, who needs to feel the joy of belonging. Include them. If you are that person who always feels like an outsider, reach out. Don’t listen to the little voices that whisper that you aren’t good enough, are the wrong color, wrong socioeconomic group, went to the wrong school, didn’t go to college, not smart enough, not thin enough, too thin….or any of the myriad of lies we tend to believe about ourselves.
You are created in the image of God…the externals are all just decoration.
Until tomorrow keep looking up, embrace today and go have some fun!