SCHOOL is a learning place. We know that. But a place where parents learn? Yes, I say, from my own experience.
One of the great things about our son’s school is his class is so diverse in its ethnicity. Only a few other Caucasian kids. There’s a blend of different cultures, including a few of Muslim faith. Now, in terms of other faiths, I’m a little sheltered. I’ve not previously had much exposure to the people of Islam, though I’ve learned a lot more about Islam in the past year or so. I remain curious in order to know my neighbour better.
My son and I arrived at school early on a recent sunny day and I met Abram (not his real name) whose son is in my son’s class. Being in Kindergarten they’re friends, of course. Four and five-year-olds have not yet come across the diversities of divisiveness in schoolyard politicking.
Well, off our sons run into the playground leaving that awkwardness that exists between fathers who’ve never encountered each other in such proximity. It’s not unusual for me to make the move, so I did. And, so we chatted for a solid five minutes. We learned about each other — what we both do for work, family structures, and the philosophies we’ve developed over our years.
It was only having encountered Abram that God showed me some new things about him, and therefore about me. Firstly, as we spent time face-to-face, I got to look at his face and into his eyes long enough to notice he was not as old as I’d first imagined him. (Getting to know people is a perception shifter.) Secondly, in his Somali accent I was reminded of the language barrier that exists between us — I just didn’t hear or understand all he was talking about, although, for continuity purposes I made out that I did understand, trusting in the overall thrust of the conversation. This was a reminder to me of my disability — my lack of linguistic and listening ability. Thirdly, it was clear to me that this man before me had insight I did not have. Before we met I had been forced to make assumptions about what kind of person he was. That’s an admission of my humanness. God was reminding me of my propensity for judging everything I perceive, including those made in His image.
I have deduced the following:
Genuine community is always about embracing diversity between different ones, beginning at root in the ‘two of us’.
Judgments are challenged and often overturned when we encounter reality, and that is always a healthy thing.
To look into another human being’s face is a reminder of our innate sameness, no matter how cultures separate us.
Community makes us better, for it’s only when we come together that our different gifts can merge into a stronger force for good.