Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Others

As we go through the school year, I will speak to my students about differences and how Jesus reached out to other cultural groups.  The following describes an incident in one of my classes from 2006 and it involves a young man named Joel Baby.

This is testing week at Westbury Christian. This morning, everybody from the kindergarten kids through eleventh graders began the Stanford Achievement Tests. The eighth graders, last names A through H, are assigned to me. After the initial handing out of answer sheets and distributing booklets, it's a breeze for the teachers. The time consuming stage is filling in information at the outset; name, date of birth, gender, teacher, school. The students have to color in the accompanying little circles which correspond to letters and numbers. As we neared the finish, we came to a box labeled "Race/Ethnicity." Our kids come from families with origins in numerous countries so this was going to be fun. Consider the options:
American Indian or Alaskan Native background- AI/AN
Asian background- A
Black or African American background- B/AA
Hispanic or Latino background- H/L
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander background- NH/PI
White- W
Another background- O

Joel raised his hand, wondering which circle to color in. His family is from India but that doesn't fit into any category. One of the kids told him he should put AI (American Indian) because he is an American citizen with Indian ancestry. We laughed. He settled on O, as in others.

Early in the school year, I tell my students that everybody in the world is either male or female and all of us are either Jewish or Gentile. They get the male/female demarcation but some do not know the Jewish/Gentile distinction. Many discover for the first time they have a new Gentile ethnicity! I try to make the point that since Jesus came and broke down the walls of division, we Gentiles have been blessed to be invited into the kingdom of God on equal footing. Paul worded it like this:
"For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him." (Romans 10:12)
Hopefully, time breaks down barriers of race and ethnicity that have no place in the worship of the God who created all the skin colors. The kids at our school don't make a big deal of it. Maybe someday adults won't either and we won't need ethnic boxes on standardized tests. For now, Joel is happily an O. Maybe I can be an O, too. Sometimes W is boring!

Applicable quote of the day:
"We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders."
Maya Angelou

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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