Years ago, a colleague of mine was chatting on her cellphone.
She was talking to her boyfriend about another couple they had dinner with the evening before. As she recounted what amounted to a double date, she said something that threw me for a loop.
She said, “I like them a lot! They’re … OUR KIND OF PEOPLE!”
No harm, no foul. It wasn’t what she said that stunned me, but rather how she said it. Have you ever gotten this chill that runs through your body when someone says something that strikes you as odd? That’s what happened to me.
Look, I’m not blaming my colleague for anything. She was simply giving her honest assessment of their new friends. Good friends are hard to find. Rock on!
But here’s what troubles me …
I don’t think I’ve ever really been driven by a desire to be friends with people who are necessarily LIKE ME. Believe me, I know myself very well and while I like myself, I can only take so much of myself.
Why would I want to be friends with ONLY people who are like me? I’m with myself 24/7 and I’m constantly reminding myself to get out of my own way. I need something a little different. That’s why I LOVE engaging with people who are NOT LIKE ME. This helps me grow.
Whenever I hear people assess and “accept” others who are different from them, I usually hear them say something like … “We’re more alike than we are different!”
That statement is more geared toward tolerance rather than true acceptance. Tolerance is not acceptance. It’s begrudging acknowledgement. Who needs that?
Look … I get it. Saying “we’re more alike that we are different” is basically a way of expressing that we see the humanity in other people. Great.
Still, I think that statement allows us to overlook and dismiss the differences in other people because we’re wrestling with our own discomfort and dis-ease.
Unless they’re meaning you harm, there’s absolutely no need to feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are different from you. Don’t you think they may feel a bit uneasy about you as well?
I mean, who are you to feel uncomfortable about other people? They’re people just like you, not creatures from another planet.
Speaking of other planets, our search for intelligent life in the cosmos cracks me up. Are you kidding me? We can’t even sort out differences with our own species here on earth. How “on earth” are we going to deal with life on other planets? We are just not ready for that. And if “Martians” do exist and have any sense at all, they shouldn’t want anything to do with US and our human nonsense.
But I digress.
If you feel uneasy about people who are different from you, aren’t YOU the one with the actual problem?
Yes, it’s totally human nature to seek out your own tribe. We all want to create a sense of belonging – not only for ourselves, but for others as well. That’s a good thing.
And yes, I also think that given the world we live in, you must be discriminating. You simply cannot have unruly, amoral, rotten people in your life. That’s no good.
But that’s also not what I’m talking about here.
I think that when it comes to people, there’s a big difference between being discriminating and practicing discrimination. Your gut will tell you.
When my colleague said … “Our kind of people!” it gave me that familiar chill that runs up and down my spine whenever I get a whiff of intolerance that has a stench like no other. I’m telling you that in that moment, I literally felt the intolerance oozing from her - like toxic sewage.
No, I do not have any evidence and I did not conduct a three-year survey on this, but what I felt was undeniable. And look, I know that I alone am responsible for what I feel, so I don’t blame her for anything.
What I’m saying is I think that incident happened so that I could be here sitting with you and chatting about “Our Kind of People.”
Given that, who are your kind of people? Do they all look like you? Have you ever said, “Our kind of people” OR “People like us” to a friend or loved one?
Crooks and creeps notwithstanding, do you only feel comfortable in the presence of certain kinds of people? People like you? Do you dismiss people who are different OR do you look for reasons to celebrate your differences?
In short, is being different a bad thing? Human beings are basically the same because we’re human, but aren’t our differences also a great thing? Isn’t THIS how God made us? Last time I checked, God hadn’t made any mistakes.
One more quick story about that same colleague of mine.
One day, she told me about a family that was looking to buy a home near her place. She stated that the family – which clearly did not look like her family – made her feel uneasy.
“There were just so many of them!” she said, clearly concerned about the possible impact on the neighborhood.
With that, I told her that I understood her point. And believe me, I really did understand. Quite frankly, I was glad that she felt comfortable enough to share her feelings with me. That was a good thing.
But as I’m chatting here with you, I’m wondering if she would have had those same feelings if that family looked like her family. What do you think?
Again, the fact that we were chatting about this was fantastic. I mean, she doesn’t look like me and we were actually discussing this tough issue. She felt comfortable enough to share. Hardly anyone does that for fear of being called names.
I don’t know how that situation turned out, but I’m comfortable enough to share it here with you … and I KNOW there’s a very good chance that you are very different from me.
But hey, that’s PERFECT. You’re my kind of people.