I may or may not have mentioned before that I am from the Midwest. I even live in the Midwest right now. And I belong to an ethnic persuasian that is pretty common in the Midwest. Which is to say: I fit in here. I pretty much look like I belong. And, as a child, I might even go so far as to say that sometimes I was even invisible.
Now there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. But they are for another post.
Back in the fall of 1981 (so long ago it's a wonder I can even remember it) I went to Japan as a short-term missionary for the LCA. (Lutheran Church in America.) With a few other young American Lutherans, I studied Japanese in Tokyo for a time and then went to the small (by Japanese standards) town of Kumamoto to teach at an all-boys junior and senior high.
For the first time in my life, I had the sensation that I was not invisible. Ever.
Everywhere I went I stuck out. And not because I was so cute (although in the early 80s, I was kind of cute), but because I looked different than almost everyone else, with the exception of the few other foreigners who lived in my town.
In case you think I'm exaggerating a little, all of us had this or a similar experience on occasion: a small child, upon seeing one of us, points and screams, "gaijin!" (foreigner) or, even, if a very small child, bursts into tears.
I had never experienced, on an emotional level, what it felt like to be a minority. I had always had the luxury of being part of a dominant or majority group. I didn't understand why people who were not like me would want to ever be in a group of people just like themselves. Now I thought I had just a little window of insight.
The movie "ET" came out while I was in Japan. The other young teachers and I joked that ET stood for "English Teacher". Sometimes we felt that strange.
So, there were times when we did need to be together, to support each other, to share our experiences with each other, just to let down our guard a little.
But of course, there's a danger in "too much" support, too. If we only went around supporting each other and talking to each other and eating with each other, then we might forget that we were in this place for a purpose, and on a mission.
To share God's love -- God's inclusive love for all of us -- no matter how different we feel, or are.