It Takes A Word

Deana works for a large insurance company that makes billions each year.  They are “huge” and all that.  I have worked for a huge company before, and when I was employed there, we referred to customers as numbers and even referred to our coworkers as “FTEs”.  Day after day, financial report after report, I looked at these numbers and FTE references and lost a sense that they were PEOPLE.  I would expect Deana’s firm to act the same way, as they are even larger than the firm I worked for.  However, when they refer to the customers they serve, they say something like this (I totally made up the number for reference only):

“This month we added 12,254 souls to the account.”

SOULS.

“Soul” is defined as “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.”  In religion, the soul is often the immaterial piece that we consider to live beyond our physical death.  This idea varies widely and has a vast history as described here, but for the purposes of this blog I will stick to the soul being the essence within us that exists after our physical body dies.  It is the piece of us that defines who we are, it fellowships with others on this earth as well as our Creator.  It is deep within us.

I have always been touched by Deana and her firm for referring to people such as myself as a “soul”.  To them, we are not just a number.  Not just a paycheck.  And that got me thinking – how different would MY day be if I decided to think about every person I interacted with as a soul?  What if I forced myself to say “hello Soul Bob” in my head before anything else?  What if I forced myself to acknowledge, yep……that dude that just flipped me off as he cut me off has a soul and, as such, should not be chased down for his egregious behavior.

It was a simple question that changed over two dozen interactions this week that would have otherwise not have ended as well.  And, perhaps that is sort of what Jesus meant when He told us to love our neighbors (and enemies) as ourselves.  Just as Jesus didn’t clarify this command by including “Christians only” or “those who are in our denomination”, or “those who live in our country”, perhaps we need to expand our nets beyond our own little spheres.  Then, maybe we will allow room for our souls to interact in purity with other souls we normally would not want to interact with……

That’s NOT to say that I don’t think consequences should occur or that we should be friends with everyone, but those are different topics for different days.

So, here are some outputs of this walk of mine with the concept of “soul”…..

Trump, no matter if anyone feels you make bad decisions, you purposely refuse to pay small businesses under the guise of non-conformity to contracts, you do not respect women, or do not deserve to be president, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary, no matter if you are a liar, deserve to be convicted in numerous ways, actually caused the murder of 4 in Benghazi, or just want to kill babies, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Evangelical Christians, no matter that some feel you have directly or indirectly caused LGBT to kill themselves, that you have allowed your religion to turn your backs on your own children in “righteous love”, that you insist that Jesus is political, use the Bible as a sword of condemnation and exclusion, or rejoice that your opponents will “burn in hell”, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Muslims, no matter that some believe your religion’s only focus is to terrorize and kill Americans, that you hate the One True God, your rape children, and you want to subjugate every woman in the world, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Atheists, no matter that many believe you have an agenda to turn our children against us, that you are getting your slimy hands on every educational platform in this country, and you want to throw Christians in jail, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

LGBT people, no matter that most would say your propaganda is focused on stealing traditional marriage from us, that you’re promiscuous and abominations,  that you are steep in the filth of HIV and AIDS, seek out our children in bathrooms, try to convert our children in schools, and insist on buying wedding cakes, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Black Lives, no matter that America says you need to calm down and show respect for authority, need to stop being in gangs in the inner cities, need to stop destroying your own cities in riots, probably should take less drugs, and probably should stop insisting that your lives are more important than ours, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Blue Lives, no matter that many say many of you use your authority in ways that would be called a crime otherwise, that corruption is the norm in your agencies, and racism is a core value, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Women, no matter that EVERYONE says you keep insisting that you need to be able to murder babies, that you are promiscuous and sluts and that’s the only reason why you insist on having access to birth control, and you expect to be treated like a man in pay and authority, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Trump Supporters, no matter that you’re racists, ignorant, hateful, misinformed, rich worshipers and poor neglecters, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary Supporters, no matter that you all want to kill babies, you’re all satanists, you want to make Christianity illegal, you just want something for nothing, and you want to take away everyone’s guns, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Gina, no matter that you used every negative stereotype you could think of to expose our own personal justifications for treating other people poorly, you have a soul worthy of kindness and respect

 

Perception

One of the definitions of “perception”, at least as noted in the Google dictionary, is “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Perception can vary widely from person to person.  For example, one person might feel that waiting 1 minute and 39 seconds for popcorn to pop in the microwave is a miracle of technology, while another might feel as though the time spent waiting was nothing but a waste and that popcorn should not take that long to pop.  It’s all about perception.

If the Chicago Cubs swept the 2016 World Series in 4 games, Cub fans would say it might be the best World Series EVER!  But Indians fans would think it probably sucked big time.  It’s all about perception.

Over the years playing on youth sports teams, we often prayed before games and asked God to help us succeed in being victorious over our opponent.  We intuitively felt God was on our side and on our team.  Unbeknownst to us, the other team was doing the same thing and felt the same way.  It’s all about perception.  (And no, I don’t believe God was really going to help us…..at least right now that is my perception ha.)

I think you get what I am trying to say about perception.  We PERCEIVE things through our view; based on our upbringing, our locale, or religious beliefs, our emotions, our influences……so many things.  And those items often make us perceive things differently.  We hold our truths to be 100% accurate, though your neighbor’s truths may have a very different view.  Which one is right?

Do we base that on who wins the game, like I perceived during my youth sports matches?  Or as Cubs or Indians fans would?  What is the “real best time” to pop popcorn in the microwave?  How do we measure that?  Should we insist OUR perception is the measuring stick to defining things, or someone else’s?  Do we HAVE to assign “the best” perception, or do we acknowledge they vary and leave it at that?  Do we ignore all these questions and just say “let’s agree to disagree”?

I am not sure how to answer those questions.  I tend to feel that if we each acknowledge that our PERCEPTIONS impact how we see things and accept things, and acknowledge that other’s perceptions may vary (potentially by a BUNCH), we might all get along better.  But instead, many of us take our perceptions and try to dictate them as “the truth” and force our perceptions on others.  When others reject them, we treat them as outsiders/enemies/put negative adjective here.  When others agree with them, we group together and reinforce the idea that “our perception is truth”…..or really “we have the truth”.

Before you get all crazy, I am NOT talking about religious beliefs here, so RELAX.

How about I share a real life scenario about perception.  Many of my friends and neighbors believe in and recite the phase, “Make America Great Again!”  That goes in hand with supporting Donald Trump as President, but this blog post in not about Trump nor his campaign nor anything related to him EXCEPT this catch phrase.  I wanted to give Trump a fair shake and let his own words define his perception of “Make America Great Again!”, so I went to his campaign site (https://www.donaldjtrump.com)  to glean what that entails.  There are many things noted on the site that made total sense, including his plan on child care, education, and veteran affairs reform.  But see, already my perception is involved as there are many more listed that I excluded.  I will let you go to the site and check out how he intends to “make America Great Again!”.

One point taken from his “Immigration” Positions page, is the following:

Since 2013 alone, the Obama Administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into U.S. communities.

In essence, he will remove them from our communities and America will be great again!  I can’t say I dispute that, but I do have a different perception of that.

Earlier this year, I was attacked by a white male who happens to be in his 50’s.  He is a Trump supporter.  He does not like blacks nor homosexuals.  He thinks America is NOT great, because of blacks and homosexuals.  He believed me to be homosexual due to my Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car (they are an LGBT organization and in this case, his perception was 100% accurate ).  When I walked out of a public building, having used their restroom, he began to scream slurs at me related to my homosexuality, grabbed my neck, and threw me to the ground.  I sustained injuries to my face (lip, philtrum, and nose) and my knee due to the impact on the ground.  My iPhone was shattered, my sunglasses flew off of my face, and my keys flew out of my hand.  He continued his hate-filled screaming as I picked my face off the ground and remained on all fours, my mind going through a super slow but probably extremely fast panic as I wondered what I should do (should I ball up to avoid his kicks?  Should I run?  Do I flail my arms and legs?  Do I just try to punch and kick at whatever and hope it makes contact?  What if he has a weapon?  What if I die?).

My attacker is American.  He is also a convicted criminal, having been on parole for sexual assault.  Based on statements made to the police after his arrest, he truly felt I deserved the attack, and if they loved me at all they deserved to have their gay asses kicked, too.  He shared that the reason America was so screwed up was because of me (a damn homo) and blacks.  And that is why America needed to be great again.  It is not unreasonable to perceive, based on these comments, that he envisions an America with both groups removed.

Break – I UNDERSTAND that he does not represent all White Americans, Trump supporters, etc.  But he DOES represent a piece of society that so many of my friends are too scared to acknowledge.

You may expect me to share now that I think America needs to be made great because this man did such horrible things to me.  Or that I don’t think Trump should be focused on the MEXICAN or IMMIGRANT criminals in society, but rather the AMERICAN ones.  Maybe there is a hint of truth to that last sentence, but realistically and honestly I don’t want that.  No, more realistically I can and do accept that there are bad in EVERY country and EVERY race and EVERY community – that’s why those who break the law go to jail.  I don’t think we ever need to focus on one group but focus on the crime.  But I digress.

The truth is, MY perception is that America IS Great.  Despite this man who did horrible things to me FOR NO GOOD REASON other than his PERCEPTION, this world is filled with more that do NOT attack those who they do not like.  Most, no matter their social level, their bank account levels, even their citizenship…….would come to the aid of someone who is being attacked in broad daylight in front of a public facility.  Because, the day I was attacked, customers and employees of the public facility came to my rescue and grabbed my attacker.  They called the police.  They helped me wash the blood off my face and gave me ice.  They were witnesses and gave VERY detailed information that has helped tremendously.  Several appeared to be Latinos, maybe even illegals I really don’t know, but that didn’t matter to them and it certainly didn’t matter to me.  They put themselves in possible danger; they didn’t know if this man had weapons either, or if he was super strong and could throw them to the ground as he did me.  They could have decided to just record my attack on their cell phones and feel justified in supplying the footage to the police.  Or they could have participated in my attack, had they held the same perception as the man who threw me to the ground.  But instead, they saved me – a complete stranger, and a gay one at that.

America is great because one of my friends, who happens to be Hindu and Indian, bought me pepper spray and found out where I was eating dinner to deliver it so that I could protect myself from another attack (as she also was angry/crying/emotionally distraught that my attack even happened).  America IS great because a Christian friend of mine who holds a more conservative view of homosexuality but who has never broached the subject……despite this view of my sexuality reached out when they heard and shared their horror and sadness…..because that is Christian.  America IS great because of friends who offered to let me stay at their house instead of my planned hotel so I wouldn’t have to face the night after my attack alone.  America IS great because my friends and coworkers who support Trump have shared that what happened to me is wrong, and support my rights as an American to believe attacking someone in the candidate’s name is not right.  America IS great, because someone like me can be attacked in a very public way, with very public rhetoric and a super public slogan being thrown in my face, can still emerge with love and hope for their country no matter who leads it.  (Never mind, I DO believe God is in control and don’t quite understand fear otherwise.)

THAT is why I believe America IS great and we don’t need to make it so…….

But I would be non transparent if I left it there.  It is absolutely a trigger for me when I see signs or bumper stickers that say “Make America Great Again!”, because all I perceive is the shaded out face of my attacker and the ground against my face…..blood everywhere and the physical and emotional pain and scars that are now my reality.  I relate my very graphic situation with that slogan.  It is hard for me to separate these words from those actions.  I fully understand that you may absolutely get a sense of hope that things may get better if things pan out as you hope.  I get that hearing “Make America Great Again!” brings up positive perceptions and reactions.

But which perception is right?

I don’t know.  But maybe we need to stop asking that question and begin to realize – we are people, not slogans.  We are flesh and bones and souls, not statistics.  We are more than this, and we are great.