It’s really been a hard time in the country where I live, and it seems like we are heading more and more to divisiveness and violence. My goal is to do what I can to encourage us all to remember that we are also capable of love and caring, even for people different from ourselves. Let’s spread that, please? Okay, so how am I doing that?
Raising Funds at a Thrift Shop
Yep, that’s what I did yesterday and what I plan to do every first Saturday of the month for the foreseeable future. The Amazing Grace Thrift Shop in Buckholts has allowed our Milam Touch of Love animal support group to sell items in the front of the shop (they are offering this to other groups, too).
The kind people behind this really nice store (not kidding, it’s so clean and pretty and the staff is so respectful to all who shop there) are also animal lovers and very supportive of MTOL. And they not only donate the space to us, but have become donors. This is such a wonderful example of putting their Christian beliefs into action.
Our volunteers brought baked goods and some items to sell, but the shop also let us sell some jewelry and keep the funds. This made our fundraising team very happy! We ended up with well over $400 for the day, from combined sales, donations, and memberships. Plus, we got to talk to a lot of people about the organization, which you just can’t put a price tag on.
Why Do I Do This?
Here’s the thing. I also believe in putting my beliefs into practice. I want to do what I can to do good in the world, encourage peace, and share my convictions that everyone has something to teach me, if I take the time to listen.
I’ve learned first-hand that while it feels good to surround yourself with only people who think and act like I do, there are pitfalls to this. So, yeah, I’ve spent much of my life hanging around with really great people, whom I still love, in groups like this:
- The liberal intellectual elite in grad school
- Pacifists, my whole life
- Breastfeeding and attachment parenting advocates in my thirties and forties
- Unitarian Universalists and other spiritually inclusive groups
- Democrats, socialists, communists, and other left-leaning groups
- People born outside the US or members of minority cultures within the US
- Gay, lesbian, trans, polyamorous, and gender fluid people
Now, before you run screaming from my blog and de-friend me on Facebook with shouts of “snowflake libtard” or something, listen first.
I admit that the people I’ve lived around and the media I’ve consumed have shaped my beliefs. DUH. That’s true of everyone! What’s important is that somehow along the way, I’ve managed to get to know enough people who come from different backgrounds from mine that I have become convinced that they are, by and large, doing their best to live peaceful lives where they and their families can earn a living, eat well, and practice their personal beliefs safely.
By volunteering in organizations like MTOL, which is made up of people from diverse backgrounds, with widely different life experiences, and with an impressively varied points of view, I get to really learn from my fellow volunteers. Sitting around for hours talking about our lives, our dreams, and our experiences is a great way to grow to accept each other as we are.
I can see how people who lived vastly different lives from me and have very different perspectives can come to have a lot in common with me and a lot to teach me. I can learn how people who are struggling still have time to help others, including innocent animals who can’t help themselves. I can get first-hand knowledge that when people work together to make things better, they can make a huge difference.
People don’t change by not challenging their beliefs and prejudices. By hiding within our “safe” communities, we’ll only make the US and the rest of the world more divided into Us and Them and less able to see where we have things in common and can compromise.
I volunteer with MTOL, the Master Naturalists, and the Friends of La Leche League (my current groups), and I attend my neighborhood book club meetings so that I can meet and really get to know people who are NOT just like me. Do I have to like everyone? No. Do I have to agree with everything someone says or thinks? No. I just have to be willing to listen. I might learn something or even change, a wee bit.
What do I get out of this listening?
I’ve found it a lot harder to throw labels on people and dismiss them as Other once I get to know them. I know and like many people I might have once lumped into some group and never thought about again. I now can see how people come to have different beliefs and opinions from mine, and no, it’s not because they are all stupid or gullible. A different set of experiences and cultural norms can lead intelligent and thoughtful people to different conclusions from mine.
And I think it’s taught me that we do have a common enemy. It’s not right or left; it’s not black, brown or white; it’s not Christiam, Muslim, or pagan; it’s closed-minded and hateful people. Period. You will find people who are not open to other views and vilify those who differ from them in every single demographic. It is NOT just those other people. It’s us, too.
My challenge to you
So, friends, readers, and other associates, here’s an idea. Go talk to people. Find a way to do some activity with people you share a common goal with but may not share your point of view. Make diverse friends. Stop labeling others the moment you meet them. THIS is how we can make a better world. I firmly believe this.
I wish you all peace and a life free from fear and hate.