Anne Notations

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nous sommes tous Americains

One of the hardest challenges of my humanity and my faith is the instruction to accept "the least of these" as my equal, as my brother or sister. I'm talking about people I find repellent physically, morally, intellectually, or any other way. Acknowledging that I and mine are intrinsically no better than these "others" is something I work on daily and pray for often.

We recently moved from an Ivy college town to a blue-collar, honky-tonk beach community. I love it here. I went to Mass in the little local church for the first time this Sunday and was floored by people's simple appreciation of one another. Their earnest love for their community in all its manifestations - for the young woman with Down syndrome who skipped up and down the center aisle bubbling with joy, for the dreadlocked altar server ringing the communion bells with gusto, for the homely but passionate homily offered by a burly deacon - suffused me with warmth. No one was dressed out of the Talbots catalog, and no one cared one whit.

Socioeconomically, the population of our new neighborhood is all over the place, from one-parent families in Chapter 8 low-income housing to truck drivers (one keeps her huge blue rig at the end of our street) to white-collar types like us who love the waterfront and the low-key atmosphere. Talk about your slice of American life. Our neighbor down the street, a single mom who lives with her custodian boyfriend, is between jobs at the moment, uses vernacular constructions ("she don't got no..." etc.), smokes like a chimney, and wants to drive race cars. Her irregular grammar fails to mask her innate intelligence. I enjoy our front-porch talks.

When you step outside the rarefied environs of the wealthy and the highly educated, you get a bracing, quintessentially American lesson in difference and equality. If you're lucky, you begin not only to tolerate but to appreciate your neighbors - your proximate brothers and sisters - as individuals with values you might not personally embrace, but at least can comprehend and maybe even respect.

This post inspired by Ian's blog this morning.


Post a Comment

<< Home