Thursday, June 4, 2015

The universe honors love

I've been thinking a lot lately about the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Back in April I read the book Love Will See You Through where MLK's niece writes about his six guiding beliefs. The one that really stuck with me the most was

The universe honors love.

As much as I love social media, it's really difficult to avoid all the vitriolic hate speech that pervades this medium. Whether it's the media feeding frenzy of Bruce Jenner's transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner, people proclaiming that all Muslims are terrorists, or the lambasting of teachers as failures because they can't fight the systemic chains of poverty and racism to raise our nation's test scores, the messages that hurt my heart the most are the ones that not only imply, but seem to proclaim that in this world, it's every man for himself.

It's so easy to turn a blind eye, to spew uninformed, hateful words, and to distance ourselves from otherness.

Every man for himself? That's EASY.

What's hard is to actually look someone in the eye, listen to their story, and to see their humanity rather than hide behind a political agenda.

The universe honors love. 

So I ask you:
  • Do you think all Muslims are women-hating terrorists? Have you actually tried to get to know anyone from that faith?
  • Do you think all people on welfare are lazy and trying to cheat the system? Who do you personally know on welfare besides the sensationalistic stories you hear on cable news?
  • Do you clutch your purse a little tighter when a black man walks by you on the street? Have you actually talked to someone about race frankly and with an open heart? Or do you just continue to perpetuate your own fear and ignorance?
  • Do you look at a person with brown skin speaking Spanish with disdain and immediately assume they're taking jobs from Americans and are mooching resources because they're here illegally? Do you actually talk to anyone in the Hispanic community and try to understand their dreams and struggles? 
  • Do you think gay people don't deserve to marry the person they love because the Bible says their lifestyle is wrong? Do you only talk about gay people from afar without actually sitting down and getting to know them beyond their sexuality?

I used to be the same way. I had strong opinions on what I was taught to believe about religion, homosexuality, and race, but the more I read and come to understand other people's struggles, the more I realize that everyone has a story that deserves to be heard. We are all made of stories and we should be allowed to tell them in our own way, on our own terms.

I think about the blog post I wrote for NCTE back in December where I talk about the importance of one story to give value and credence to the story of many. I absolutely believe that is true. If you don't have any personal connections to a community of people in which you are speaking about, then I challenge you to get to know someone from that community before you condemn them. It's so much easier to be hateful when you don't have to look a person in the eye. What a difference it would make if instead of looking at someone and seeing their otherness, you honored their humanity by asking them to tell their story.

Since I read Love Will See You Through back in April, I have continued to wonder what would happen if we all lived by the guiding belief that the universe honors love. I know I'm going to try really hard to do so in my own life and in my own classroom. I will look at these children as people with hopes dreams, and struggles and not just as students who are in my room 50 minutes of the school day. More importantly though, I will look each of them in the eye and get to know their stories. I challenge you to do the same.

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