Tag Archives: stereotype

The Wonderful People

Story of the Day for Saturday October 1, 2011

The Wonderful People

                    Don’t judge by how things appear. . . 

                                                                   John 7:24

 While waiting for her flight, a woman bought a book and a package of cookies and took a seat in the airport terminal.  As she was reading she noticed the man sitting next to her began fumbling with her cookies.  He opened the package and helped himself to one.  She couldn’t believe it!   Not knowing what to do, she reached over and grabbed one of her cookies and started to eat.  And then it happened again, he grabbed another cookie.  The woman was not about to let a stranger eat all her cookies so she grabbed another one.

With one cookie left, the stranger broke it in two, gave her half, and walked away.

Still fuming, she reached into her purse to get a tissue and . . . there was her unopened package of cookies.

 

As a matter of fact, I have developed a cool theory based solely on judging by outward appearances.  I think I can tell how liberal or fundamental a congregation is by the shape of the cross on their church.

If you see a church with a big, fat cross: they’re probably fundies.  They usually don’t paint their cross, but if they do, it’s black.

The loosey-goosey liberal churches have really skinny crosses.  They’re usually made of metal.

If the cross is real ornate, that means the church is probably real stodgy and ritualistic.

And so on.

I know I’m not supposed to judge churches simply because of the kind of cross they put on their church.  But I do.

 

Do you do that kind of thing?  Do you ever find yourself judging the character of someone based on the length of their hair or how they dress?

What do we do about that?  After just confessing my habit of judging the theology of congregations on the basis of their church crosses, you’re probably not looking to me as the ideal source for advice on this topic.

I’m not the ideal source, but here is what I do.  I haven’t learned to stop making judgments about people based on appearances.  Some day, I hope I will.  But until then, what I do is learn to recognize those areas where I tend to draw hasty conclusions, and then go out of my way to prove my initial judgment false.

 

Today I picked up a hitchhiker. Hitchhikers, as we all know, are bums who are either too lazy to work or losers who lost their driver’s licenses from too many DUIs.  (Are you getting the picture here?)  So, my goal is to prove how wrong my assumptions are.

Guess what?  I’m discovering that most hitchhikers are kind, or down on their luck, and are humbly grateful for the ride.  The guy I picked up today broke his back and is strengthening it by riding his bike.  But it hurt so bad that he had to leave it at a car dealership and hitch a ride the rest of the way to town.

You wouldn’t believe the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure to meet since I started treating people this way.

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Panhandlers at Train Stations

Story of the Day for Thursday September 22, 2011

Panhandlers at Train Stations

 

                  Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case . . .

                                                               Psalm 43:1

One of San Diego’s regular transients was at the train station when John took his stepson, Adam, to catch his ride. Buddy is a panhandler and is well-known to many at the train station. He’s not very fragrant, but neither is he persistent, and never ever rude.

Buddy asked John if he had any change so he could buy a cup of coffee.

“Buddy, I’m sorry, I just don’t have any money on me.”

With John ruled out as a contributor, both Buddy and John looked to Adam. Slightly embarrassed, Adam said he didn’t have any money either.

The three exchanged small talk and then John and Adam walked on.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Adam told his stepdad, “He tried to pick my pocket.”

“Are you sure?”

“While you two were talking he came over and bumped into me and I‘m sure he tried to reach into my pocket.” Then Adam said, “This pocket, right here in my jacket.”

Adam reached into the pocket and . . . pulled out a crumpled dollar bill that hadn’t been there before.

 

In 1798, Fermin Didot, a French printer, created a process by which he could print books without using moveable type. He created a printing plate called a “stereotype.” The printing surface for a stereotype was called a “cliché.”

Walter Lippman used the printing term, stereotype, in 1922 as a metaphor to describe how we often view members of a group as duplicates – all having the same characteristics.

 

Following our train of thought, this is the perfect opportunity for me to become a scold and warn against stereotyping anyone. But experts say we can’t help stereotyping – we put everything into categories. When I tell my wife, “Hmm, this looks like a good place to look for huckleberries,” I have engaged in stereotyping.

But it’s not simply that I can’t help stereotyping people; sometimes I don’t want to avoid it. I have told others that the Japanese are very polite or that the Inuit are a hospitable people. Are their exceptions to my statements? Of course. I’m sure at least one Apache warrior was a coward, and there’s one Nebraskan farmer who isn’t friendly. All the same, I intend to cling to my stereotypes and praise the whole lot of them.

 

When, however, we label everyone in a group with a negative trait, stereotypes become sinister (and even the word “sinister” – which means “left-handed” is a stereotype.) What makes negative stereotypes so dangerous is that they are often motivated by a desire to feel we are above others. Other groups are denigrated, in other words, in order that we may feel superior to them.

If you have a better way to go about this, I’m open to suggestions. But, until I learn to view people without categorizing them, I intend to praise groups for positive traits I observe, and try my best not to assume anyone has a negative trait simply because they belong to a certain group.

Not even panhandlers at train stations.

                                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)