Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What We See

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.

18 comments:

Border Explorer said...

//I stand to applaud.//

FranIAm said...

I am standing with BE. This is so rich with wisdom Diane.

So very rich with wisdom...

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Just one more reason that our leaders in Washington need to be people with "eyes" and diversity...and by diversity I mean experiential diversity, such as travel, place they grew up, types of educational institutions, work experience, service of various kinds, rich/poor, etc. Not just skin color, for heavens' sake. That plus smart and thoughtful.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

ah and just yesterday i read these words from St. Paul (2 Cor. 4:18) "so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Beautiful and very, very profound, Diane.

I'm always asking myself, "What am I missing here?" And most of the time, I can't answer, because until someone with a different frame of reference provides another POV, it's impossible to take off your own blinders.

And THAT is why it is so very important that those of us with differing religious and political viewpoints and differing life experiences keep talking. Because we can never remove our blinders if we are never challenged.

Pax,
Doxy

afeatheradrift said...

We have an uncommon ability to avoid thinking about those things we are ashamed of. Thank you for reminding us again of our failings. They are huge.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Just reread you post. I think we bring different eyes to reading the Bible as well. The Bible is, I believe, the WORD OF GOD. But that doesn't mean that the translations or interpretations are necessarily correct.

Diane said...

hotcup, that was JUST PERFECT scripture.

Diane said...

and PS.... yeah, absolutely, one of the things I like about Bible study is how the different eyes see different things...

thailandchani said...

So entirely true!!



~*

mompriest said...

I've been saying a lot lately: we do not see things as THEY are, we see things as WE are...

these stories you share really point us to ponder just who we are...

Jennifer said...

Fabulous post.
Fabulous writing.
You rock.

Jennifer said...

And also....

how well this post fits with the gospel lesson for this week's lectionary: "...When did we see you?"

aka The Swandive said...

Wow. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

There's a blog award for you at my place.

dust bunny said...

excellent...and humbling

Crimson Rambler said...

about what we see, with different eyes...you know the prayer-phrase, "and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others"? (Usually part of grace at mealtimes).
I once heard it prayed by someone with a tendency to spoonerisms...and it came out, "and keep us ever needful of the minds of others." And the eyes, and the hearts, I thought.

Lindy said...

Brava Diane. You are spot on with this. And, for me, it's a much needed reminder.