When I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade, I remember getting a school assignment at about this time of year (nearing Thanksgiving, that is) to write an essay about the First Americans. I remember procrastinating for awhile, thinking for awhile, and finally getting out our set of Golden Encyclopedias to find out all I could about the Pilgrims. I loved to write, even then, and felt proud of my work.
A few days later, our teacher held up just one of our essays for special mention. But it wasn't my essay. It was one of my classmate's, a girl who lived just down the street from me. She and she alone had written her essay, not about the Pilgrims, but about Native Americans.
A long time later, I lived in Japan. First I lived there as a missionary and teacher of English. Later I studied some Japanese at a college in Tokyo. I used to like to go to the campus library and sit in a big chair and read newspapers from the United States.
One Sunday I read with interest an article in the Sunday New York Times called "American Survivors of the Atomic Bomb." The article was an in-depth exploration of the fates of a handful of prisoners of war who were in Hiroshima on August 6th. I hadn't known that there were any American prisoners in Japan at the time, and drank in every aspect of the long, detailed article.
A week later I read the letters to the editor. Many letters thought that the in-depth article was quite illuminating. But one I have remembered for all these years. This letter-writer took the article to task for not mentioning the many Japanese-Americans who happened to be in Japan when the war broke out. After the declaration of war, they were not able to return to the United States. Some of them had been victims of the atomic bomb, too. Why were their stories not researched?
A number of years ago I was working at a church in a large Western city. Our congregation was in a central-city, diverse location: large mansions and poor neighborhoods within a few blocks in different directions. Our church held a food pantry, a mental-health center, congregate dining for seniors, and a variety of other ministries. However, we were not a terribly diverse congregation.
One Sunday morning an African American woman and her two adult sons walked into our Sunday worship service. Though nobody talked about it at the time, we discovered later that several of us were thinking I wonder if they will be able to follow the liturgy.
Turns out that they knew it by heart.
So much of what we believe depends on what we see -- or what we choose to see.