Saturday, September 28, 2013


"It's a pirate!" the little girl yelled.

All parents have experienced it. You know what I'm talking about. That time when the innocent child blurts out something that cannot be called back once it leaves those innocent lips.  I was at the airport, trying to get on a flight in O'Hare with about 400 other people. Half were waiting for their flight to load, while my half waited for our plane, sitting at the gate, waiting to unload. Needless to say, we were all weary travelers.

I was reading my book oblivious to the people around me when the little girl shouted, "It's a pirate!" I knew immediately what had happened. Next to me sat a very handsome, young man wearing a white turban. He had a small, waxed mustache that added more to his beauty. I noticed when I sat down that he was watching "The Big Bang Theory" on his computer. Until this moment, the gentleman and I had not spoken. Evidently, the little girl spied the turban and immediately related it to her early morning cartoons. The young man turned around and said, "Usually, its a genie."  I felt the need to apologize. "I'm sorry," I said.

"I've been called worse," he replied.

My children had blurted out words that could not be recalled. After such incidents, we would talk about it which in turn became a learning experience. Yet some children are just too young to understand. And, some things are said that are overheard from another source.

Why did I say I was sorry?  I had no control over the situation. I had done nothing wrong to this young man. Yet, I felt sadness when I heard his reply. I wanted to shake up a world that all too quickly judges others. I wanted to erase prejudice and hatred. My apology couldn't change the world. Heck, I can't change anyone. Here sat a young man who was a weary traveler the same as me. I was going to Portland. He was going home to Seattle. He dressed differently. But that was just what was on the outside. This was a man who was judged wherever he went because of his religion and dark skin. I was ashamed of those who judge. 

When I was a little girl in Sunday School, we sang a song about Jesus loving children who were red and yellow, black and white. All are indeed precious in His sight....even when they grow up. Yet in all societies there is prejudice. A friend of mine has a child who has a good friend who is Hispanic. During all of the years of growing up, the two children remained friends. Even so, the mother would not let her daughter spend the night at her friend's home. The mom had been to the other home. She knew the family. Yet prejudice colored the way her daughter was growing up.

We are a world of mixed religions and colors. I guess we fear what we don't understand. Instead of learning, we build walls. We Anglos think that this is our country when indeed it belongs to the Native Americans who resided here. Much of this land was in the hands of the Spaniards before we got here. Yet we consider this our land...our conquered land. What fools we be.

I sat next to this beautiful man and remembered all of the old TV movies with Douglas Fairbanks and those with Errol Flynn. I always thought the men in turbans were handsome and lived exciting lives. Mystery. Mystic. I see a world before us now that can be utterly destroyed by hate or can choose to embrace all people enjoying the differences, learning from one another.

As a grandparent, I want my children to know that I am who I say I am. I want to be honest in my way of dealing with others and accepting the differences. I want them to see in action what it is to be a caring person without prejudice. I can't change the world, but I have a chance to make a difference in my own home and community. I can choose not to gossip and judge. I can choose to think first from the heart.

I was looking for an Islamic quote. This was the first thing that came up on the Islamic Quote page: Mother Theresa said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Perhaps I should have said confessed to the young man that I, too, was not a pirate. Argh.

1 comment:

  1. It is natural to be curious. I was curious recently when I saw a man performing a Sukkot ritual at the airport. But, yes, it is sad when people are the objects of insensitive remarks simply because they are different. Children should get a little more leeway than adults.