Beyond Tolerance

I roll over, the sounds of the early birds chirping outside my window, ugh! The clock reads 4:22am. Waking at this hour is not unusual for me, unfortunately. Some mornings I can ease back into sleep, yet, this morning, not so much. One of the first images to fill my head is that of Chyna Gibson, a transgendered black woman murdered in Louisiana. Just one of 7 black transgendered women to be murdered between January and the end of February 2017 in the US. The one question that I fell asleep contemplating, and was still with me at 4:22am, why?

One word kept tumbling around in my lucid brain at this ridiculous hour. Tolerance. Sounds nice, right? If only we lived in a more tolerant world? Yet, I can’t seem to embrace this word as others have. It never quite sat well with me. Though I understand the sentiments, I still long for more. The Christian, the Buddhist, the Universalist in me yearns for more. I want home, school,  community and this world that I spin around on to value human life, all life. Perhaps we don’t fully understand one another, I for one don’t understand a great deal, yet I don’t hate or devalue what I don’t understand. I might wonder about it, marvel at it a bit, yet hate?

I know I won’t ever be Jewish (at least I don’t think so), I can’t ever be Black, or Asian, or transgendered, or a multitude of “others”. Yet, isn’t a beautiful idea that we can look at someone and think and feel in our hearts “You are a human being just like me”. On average, in terms of DNA sequence, all humans are 99.5% similar to all other humans. No two humans are genetically identical. Can ’t we start here? With the 99.5% of us that are absolutely the SAME. Yet that .5% is what makes us 100% unique, like no other. Marvelous. Wonderful. Valuable. Extraordinary. Fabulous. It is what sets us apart. It is what fuels this world. We won’t all be mothers or fathers. We won’t all be engineers, teachers, computer technicians, fire fighters, politicians, garbage men, migrant workers, bartenders, authors, activists, mechanics, linguists, students, etc. The world needs all of us to be exactly who we are, it wouldn’t work otherwise. So what blinds us to the beauty of us? Yep, there’s that word again, hate.

I have quoted Shel Silverstein for years. His work has a way of humanizing the silly in us all. Yet there are a few of his pieces, even as a children’s author, that hits home and nails humanity on the head like none other. One poem that I think embraces this notion of a shared “us” better than I ever could is this one:

No Difference

by Shel Silverstein

Small as a peanut,

Big as a giant,

We’re all the same size

When we turn off the light.

Rich as a sultan,

Poor as a mite,

We’re all worth the same

When we turn off the light.

Red, black or orange,

Yellow or white,

We all look the same

When we turn off the light.

So maybe the way

To make everything right

Is for God to just reach out

And turn off the light!

“No Difference” by Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends. © Harper Collins, 1974. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

We don’t have to live as others do. We don’t have to look the same, sound the same, dress the same, to understand that beneath it all, we are the same. There is great liberation and beauty in acceptance. We can live in a home, go to a school, be a part of a community that honors the uniqueness and the divinity in us all. We can begin to see diversity as our Deities way of creating beauty, a vast array of loveliness just as was intended. The only way, perhaps, for us to get to this place, is for the God in each of us, to reach over and turn out the light. So I begin with me, and I am turning off the light, the light on hate, and will shine a light instead on what binds us all together, love.

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