As I was doing applesauce the other day I came upon this weird-looking apple. It had the stem to the side, making it look like a little hunchback. It made me smile. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to cut it open and use it because on the inside the apple was just like all the others. It was just on the outside that the apple looked different.
I remember as a little girl how hesitant I was to approach anyone with physical disabilities (that was in the day when we called them “handicapped”). They were different than me and it made me nervous. I would kind of stand back and watch them.
As I got older, the discomfort slowly dissipated, as a new awareness filled me– These are people just like anybody else. They have feelings and ideas and personalities. They are just trapped in bodies that do not look everyone else’s.
This is true of anyone who looks different than us. This is true of grossly overweight people, your neighbors who are from a different country, or the co-worker who is a different race than you.
We tend to want to hang with people who look like us. The problem with this is that our world view becomes extremely narrow when we do this.
One of the best things that happens for me when I travel outside of the United States are the encounters with people who are different than me.
As I listen to our group leader talk through an interpreter to the old lady who is raising her grandchildren in a slapped-together wooden structure with a tree growing in the middle of it, I can see the emotions on her face. I see the creases on her well-worn hands and the pride that lights up her eyes when she looks upon the children scampering through the hut.
And I am familiar with her delight and her sadness and her hesitation. I have felt those same things. Maybe we aren’t so different, after all. She has just been given a different (much harder) life than I was. She was born in a different country. With a different color skin.
I have little videos of these moments in my head from all of the different countries I have visited. These moments have really helped me to step outside of my comfort zone when I return home.
We don’t need to be scared of someone who looks different than us. They are just people. Like you and me.
I am reading through the gospels right now and I am struck at how Jesus ministered to anyone. He was not picky. In fact, a good example of this is when he very purposefully ministered to the woman at the well (John 4). Not only was she a Samaritan — a race of people who were ostracized by the Jews, but she was also a woman, and therefore considered a second-class citizen in those days.
We need to remove the barriers within us that keep us from sharing Christ with those that are different from us. We need to remember that people, just like apples, are the same inside. They feel hurt and joy and frustration the same as us. They are born sinners, just like us. God loves them, just like He loves us.
Step outside your comfort zone today and start up a conversation with someone who is different than you. You’ll be glad you did.