I get giddy when I discover a culture or group that I don't know well and they are willing to share with me. I always gain new perspectives that enhance my life! Sure, I also always learn that I've been making mistakes and assumptions that were wrong and even, sadly, sometimes cruel. But how wonderful to learn and be willing to change! If I don't know, how can I shift?
Another Example: Until my son pointed it out, I had often easily laughed at jokes that seemed harmless to me. Then one day we were watching an old episode of Friends, or maybe it was That 70s Show, and the classic "someone thinks he's gay but he's not gay" premise was played out. My son said, "I sure do notice that there are a lot of homophobic jokes on TV." I started to tell him why it wasn't homophobic when I realized that the entire joke was only funny if the audience agreed that no one wants to be mistaken for gay. Oops! I immediately started taking a closer look at common humor and was made aware. It was an especially eye opening experience for me because I was already vocal about the importance of being clever and careful with humor. However, my focus had remained on more obviously cruel jokes. The ones where we are making fun of people or cultures, or where we name-call and are intentionally cruel. But when I started paying closer attention to the underlying themes and audience agreement that had to be accepted to find jokes funny, well, I changed. I saw it in more places than homosexuality, of course. But it wasn't until my son, who is gay, pointed out a problem that directly affects him that I opened up to looking closer. I'm certain that the issue had been brought to my attention before that, I just never felt as directly motivated to really think about it.
I Have Too Many Examples: As I was typing those two examples above a million more came to mind. How I used to think black people were exaggerating about discrimination, and now I don't. How I used to believe that my autistic brothers were too different for me to understand, and now I don't. How I used to assume my uniquely wired mom didn't try hard enough to fit in and just wanted to get attention, and now I don't. How I used to believe that people who aren't poor were somehow simultaneously more successful than me and sellouts who had come un-tethered from anything meaningful in their pursuit of profit, and now I don't. Oh, boy, I could go on and on!! The point is, getting to really truly know and care about people who are vastly different from me is why I know when my assumptions are mistaken. And, it turns out, my assumptions are often mistaken!
In my desire to have strong ethics and stand by my beliefs, I have learned that I can (and do) get in my own way. Yet, when I remember that my strong ethics and beliefs are tied tightly to my desire for a world of peace, love, coffee, books, and snuggles, I know that standing firm works well with flexibility. I stand firm in my belief that we can accept all living beings and that we are all equally valuable and that our planet is one great big beautiful living friend, and then I am flexible in my journey to play a part in the beauty of that belief.
Diversity of culture, work, neurology, religion, sexuality, class: Seek it purposefully with an open mind and desire to follow differences down deep, where they lead to sameness.
It's one of the greatest ways to learn and love everyone.
It's a wonderful way to celebrate ourselves and our world!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
|My hubby really gets into his work! Ha! See what I did there? I'm here all week. tee hee!|