I think the opposite of this can be taken one of two ways. Intolerance is the obvious concept, yet ignorance also factors into the equation. As human beings, I wonder how much we are tolerant of people in our lives that are radically different than us- either by personality or by aspects that are completely genetic and out of their control. Before you judge others I think it’s important to get in the know and educate yourself.
When it comes to adoption, a lot of people react with kid gloves around my children. Almost as if they are dealing with a newborn. My children are 15 and 12. They won’t warm up to someone who treats them as if they were newborns. They strive so much to be treated as any other kid their age would. We’ve been able to talk to them about situations that happen at school where they feel sad or hurt because of aspects that peers do not understand.
My youngest came home crying one day because they were working on a song for a play from the musical Annie. Any song from that play conjures up images of an orphanage- so some of the peers who know my youngest has adoptive parents make mention of this fact. She didn’t grow up in an orphanage- she lived in foster homes before living with us. Yet that stereotype still sticks in her mind, and will be tough to break without intense therapy.
We’ve had to work with her in the treatment of people who have mental disabilities. Since she never lived in an area with peers who are autistic, in wheelchairs or have brain injuries- she would often mimic their behavior after they would leave. I mentioned to her that this is unacceptable. How would she like being ridiculed for her blonde hair, or small stature, or fair skin? Once she realized that their behavior was within them and something that could not be helped, she gained an understanding of tolerance. I think the fact that I spent 7 years in the human services field and spent time talking about every situation immediately helped her grow out of this making fun of stage and into a place of making everyone feel normal.
I spent years having to educate people that not all heavy metal musicians or listeners are drug users, burn outs who have little to no ambition in life or set few goals. Or that I’m an evil criminal. In fact, a lot of people in my school who listened to heavier music had more of an open mind, a strong educational foundation and excelled in academics. We spent a lot of time learning about history, sociology, fantasy, science and mythology as a result of the lyrics from artists like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept, Blind Guardian, Dio, etc.
I think I delved deeper into social connections- with the bands, with the fans, with the music. My favorite thing to hear through the years is, “You don’t look like someone into that type of music.” And who does? Does everything have to fit in a nice, neat package for only one segment of the population to enjoy and explore?
So be wary of instantly labeling people. There’s more to a person that just one aspect you may see on the surface. Don’t dismiss them if they don’t completely have 100% of the same interests as you. Can we really expect everyone to be into the same foods, the same clothes, the same books or movies, the same music, etc. for a lifetime? Take the time to step outside of yourself and get to know another person’s interest and passion that may be completely out of your comfort zone.
We have one lifetime to explore, experience and enjoy each other. Take a stand for educating yourself and believe in tolerance- otherwise you waste precious moments on the other side that you can never get back.