Friends, how often are you around people who are different than you? A heavy question for a Wednesday morning, I know. But follow me through this thought, no?
I went to this coffee shop not too far from my house a couple nights ago. I like to go because there are big tables where I can spread out and work. This week I brought my nephew. He's in 7th grade so he brought his homework and at those big tables he worked and I wrote.
My nephew and I, we both live in a mostly Mexican neighborhood. And by mostly Mexican I mean that when we see someone who isn't Mexican, one of us inevitably asks, "Where did he/she come from? I wonder what they're doing here" and crane our necks to watch where they go.
Segregation is here in Chicago. Sure there's lots of different kinds of people, but there's also lots of different neighborhoods for those lots of people and rarely do they mix. The neighborhood of that coffee shop we went to is mostly Black and there are these train tracks that run between my neighborhood and the coffee shop neighborhood. This side is Mexican and that side is Black. And everyone knows and mostly everyone sticks to their own neighborhood.
A few years back, I used to live in that coffee shop neighborhood. And I'd walk down the street and people would look at me with that "What's she doing?" look. One time, the cops pulled over to see if I was lost. I was on my way to the grocery store down the street from my house. But there are two assumptions when you're somewhere where you "shouldn't" be. Drugs or lost. And because I wear a Gap jacket and loafers, I must be lost. It breaks my heart for those who don't land on the "lost" side of judgment.
But right there on that line between my old neighborhood and my new neighborhood, there's this church. And they started a health center and now a coffee shop. And in that coffee shop, there are lots of different kinds of people. And those people even interact with each other. They work on projects together and eat together. And they laugh and lean in close to share ideas. And they spread out on those big tables and stay for hours.
Maybe you have to live here to know how beautifully magical that is. How profound a miracle because you know how rarely this happens. Or maybe you live somewhere like this so you know. You know.
I don't much discuss religion, but there is something truly Kingdom Come about that space. I think that when we see God (or whomever you perceive God to be), I think we'll see little pieces of each of those different kinds of people. And I think that if we're not spending time with those different kinds of people now, we are missing out now. On beauty. On knowledge. On slivers of that Kingdom Come. On wow and I never even knew. Each culture, language, immersion, friendship, misunderstanding, difficult conversation, compassion, patience, and understanding is that piece you never knew was missing. Is it easier to stay within our own family, neighborhood, culture, language, etc? Sure but oh what we would miss. Things worth doing are rarely easy.
So how much time are you spending with people different than you? And where are you finding those slivers of Kingdom Come?