How many times have we given the excuse that we have so much to do with so little time? If you’re like me, then that number is probably countless. As we age, and science keeps us alive for more years than we ever thought, I have begun to realize what a shallow excuse that is.
As a college-educated EuroWestern white woman, and termed-out state senator, I thought I was pretty well informed. Although I was, to many standards, my adult daughters and friends of color convinced me that there was much more to learn beneath the surface. I had always wanted to get my master’s, but it became evident that I needed it. If I was going to continue to serve this often misperceived world, I needed to understand it more fully from other people’s histories, faiths, and cultures. Thus, enter in my Social Justice and Ethics program.
For years in the workplace, I had taught courses on diversity, inclusion and empathy. I thought I was leading and doing good work, and for the most part, I was. But as I know now, it has been through my dominant culture lens, without the perspective of those with lived experience in the margins. Although I was raised interfaith, I knew some about the holidays and practices of other religions, but very little about why others believe or think as they do because of their faith.
Learning historically and theologically about multiple religions has taught me how to better understand and empathize with my neighbors who practice differently than I do. Over the last few years, I’ve also learned the real history of how our country was founded and built on liberty and prosperity for us white people on the stolen land of the North American Indigenous peoples and the backs of the enslaved Africans.
I realize this isn’t easy to talk about, especially in our mostly white Christian suburbia. But if we are to thrive and prosper as a community, we need to better understand all others so we can get along, neighbor to neighbor. The world is changing and becoming more diverse, and so is Colorado. The more we ignore or resist the truths or people around us, the more we starve as a people — either socially, culturally, or financially.
Yes, we may have much to do in our lives every day, but we can also admit that over the years we live, we can find time to learn from sources outside our own bubbles of perspectives. The more we learn and understand about ourselves and others, the more we’re able to empathize. The more we can empathize, the better our lives are in relationship as individuals and as a community.
Formerly a Colorado state senator, now a seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell, of Littleton, is a speaker, filmmaker, facilitator and consultant. She may be reached at email@example.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.
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