Friday, November 13, 2009

People are People

That waiter ain’t just any old waiter. That bus driver just ain’t any old bus driver. That grandma just ain’t any old grandma….even if she is old. So, why is it when we superficially label someone, such as waiter, bus driver, grandma, professor, BYU quarterback, cashier, neighbor, sister, father, employer, the list goes on and on…that these superficial labels have a tendency to dehumanize the very people they represent?

For example, (by the way, I don’t mean this to be politically slanted at all) I randomly found myself listening to some talk radio station on my way home from school. I only heard a brief snippet containing Glen Beck being interviewed by some radio talk show host.

Obviously, we all know that he is one very opinionated man who broadcasts his opinions to earn a living and this upsets many people. With that said, Mr. Beck and his daughter happened to be in New York recently when someone said something very negative and insulting about her father while they were out and about. Supposedly, the comment was so horrible that it really upset this young girl. Mr. Beck proceeded to ask his daughter afterward if she was indeed okay, to which she replied, “I just wish people would realize that you’re somebody’s dad.”

From this I gather that some of Mr. Beck’s audience were dehumanizing him by labeling this man as just a talk show personality whom they adamantly and passionately disagreed with, when in fact he is in all actuality a breathing, heart-beating individual with feelings and a family. It’s funny, a very sad type of funny, how a label somehow hides the more important and defining features and dimensions of human beings. People are people.

Now, I’m not saying please pitty Glen Beck and his daughter…more just trying to paint a picture…but stay with me here….

On Monday, I called my grandparents for a little chitty chat to see how they were doing. I was discussing how I hoped that I would be able to make in home for Thanksgiving, even though I know I am surrounded by wonderful, loving people who would adopt me as their own on that holiday. However, I expressed my heartache at the thought of being stuck in Utah. Since I would be without the familiar company of my own special family, undoubtedly overwhelming homesickness would trump any other feeling.

This is when my seventy-some-odd year old grandma confided in me how it was strange that even though she was older in years, she always gets a pang of homesickness at times because she can never really “go home.” She is happily married to my grandpa, but her parents have since passed away, leaving the home of her childhood nonexistent. Somehow through my twenty-one years of living, I had always just assumed since my grandparents were “old” that feelings such as homesickness were beyond them. But, people are people.

Lastly, it was a regular Tuesday afternoon. Naturally, I was decked out in my official teal scrubs and crisp, white lab coat, excited to meet my new patient for clinic that day. As I started to go over Mr. Leonard’s (don’t worry, I changed his name for confidentiality’s sake) medical history, I could tell things were taking a turn for the worst. To make a very long and patience-trying experience short, Mr. Leonard was the type of fellow (hopefully only in this circumstance and not other dimensions of his life) who took no thought in making life difficult for a stressed out dental hygiene student…aka me. After many belittling comments, complaints, sarcasm, and explicit expressions of distrust, Mr. Leonard told me he no longer wanted any more dental services from me and wanted to go somewhere else.

Now, I’m over it. It was stressful at the time, but not a big deal now. But I honestly think, because I looked and acted the part of a health professional, I was only labeled as such. Mr. Leonard didn’t see past at the lab coat and take the time to visualize a young girl in blue jeans, probably his granddaughter’s age, just trying to do her best and get her education. That mental picture would have undoubtedly made me more human to this man. However, on the other side of the coin, maybe this man was so mean because he had just found out his wife was terminally ill or something. Ya never know. People are people.

One of the many things I admire about our Savior, Jesus Christ, was his ability to humanize complete strangers with such love and compassion. We read about such experiences in places like the New Testament.

For instance, remember the woman at the well? In John 4:6-8 it reads,

(6) Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

(7) Then cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

(8) (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

This is where things get interesting, in verse 9, pay special attention on how the woman at the well, and not someone else, labels herself as just a mere woman of Samaria.

(9) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Jesus then replies in verse 10,

(10) Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knowest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

He proceeds to tell this daughter of God in verses 13-14,

(13) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

(14) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Jesus then perceives that she is also an adulterer in latter verses, but continues to beckon her to repent and follow him.

Now, Christ could have easily stuck with the label this woman put on herself, “a woman of Samaria” who had no dealing with the Jews. Christ could have also stuck with the label of an adultress. However, he looked past these two labels and saw this woman for who she really was. He saw her as not just a human being, but as a daughter of God which is so much more than anything I have discussed in reference to looking past labels.

I also find the dangers of placing labels on ourselves quite intriguing. Sure…it’s not “nice” when people label us, but when we label ourselves it can be downright dangerous if done incorrectly.

For example, if the woman at the well would have stuck to the notion that she was just a Samaritan with no dealings with the Jews….she would have thought herself to have no dealings with Christ. If we label ourselves as just mediocre, sinner beyond repentance, hopeless, forgotten, or a number of other blatant but often believable lies, we to can fall under the misconception of having no dealings with Christ which directly dehumanizes ourselves, therefore denying any form of truth that we are indeed sons and daughters of a living God created in His divine image, sent here to earth with a divine purpose with Jesus the Christ as our Savior and mediator. People are people. And, that beautiful and eternal principle not only provides an insinuation about the nature of human beings, but more majestically proclaims the divine nature of human beings.

Anyway, just thought I would add my two cents about superficial labels and how I truly believe no matter what the age, circumstance, or outward appearance people are people…all sharing the similar needs, feelings, and most critically divine origin and importance.

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