May 28

MAY 28
by Jenny Dittmer
Like most people who live in the Bay Area, I enjoy the luxury of being able to interact with people from all walks of life, including those of different ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and with varying religious or non-religious beliefs. Unfortunately, far too often I find myself in the trap of judging those around me that don’t hold the same political ideology, ethical values, or moral standards that I keep. A few years back my eyes were widely opened, once again, to this blind bias as I traveled with my family in the Northwest.
 
I’ve long held, and still do hold, the belief that those with minimum wage positions equally deserve to have their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing met; just as those employed in higher paying positions have their basic needs met. Having worked as a vocational counselor for individuals with mental health disabilities, I often saw the disparity of the “haves” versus the “have nots.” The majority of my clients, who were ready, willing, and able to work, could typically only manage to hold part-time minimum wage positions due to no preventable shortcomings of their own making. For obvious reasons, government assistance was a necessity in covering the gaps of their fundamental needs. Most of my clients were individuals with little or no supportive family and/or friends, and they were bordering on becoming unhoused. Likewise, most were CA natives without ties or connections outside of the state; and, despite lower costs of living elsewhere, leaving CA would likely have caused them greater hardships than not.
 
I am a homegrown Californian, born and raised locally. Growing up, I had the opportunity to travel for one year in the Midwest, to gain some outside perspectives on life. Other than that, my views have mainly been shaped by my upbringing in the Silicon Valley. In my marriage I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel further and see greater parts of our country. As mentioned before, one family road trip took us through Yellowstone National Park and into a very tiny town in Wyoming. We stopped for lunch and the four of us ordered burgers, fries, sodas, and a few milkshakes. My jaw dropped when the check arrived. I squinted, grabbed my glasses and looked closely at the hand written numbers that totaled $20.00. How could that be!? Was this 1960!? No, it was one of the many thousands of small towns scattered throughout the USA in the year 2017.
 
In that moment, my perspective shifted, a lot, and I realized that a worldview based solely on my own upbringing, moral, ethical, religious beliefs, and personal experiences is limited at best. As one pretty smart philosopher once put it, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I do my best now to listen rather than react when someone with a differing opinion or view shares their standpoint. I believe that this is what Jesus wants us to do too.
 
Jesus surrounded himself with, or rather, people from every walk of life gathered around Jesus. He welcomed each individual and spoke truth to them on the authority of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. This truth was based on love and in order to draw people closer to Him. Shouldn’t this be our model of speaking to all those that we come in contact with in our own lives? And, as Christians, shouldn’t our perspectives also encompass a worldly view that goes well beyond our own circumstances and life experiences? God welcomes and wants all to come to Him and to partake in the eternity of His kingdom. He encourages us to lead others toward this path with a love that entails the fruits of the Spirit. He asks us to speak to others as Colossians 4:6 eloquently states, “with conversation always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I pray that you’re encouraged to engage with others whose views may not fully align with your own, and to listen earnestly, and with patience, before sharing your perspective via Jesus’ ears and eyes.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your love, mercy, and unending grace. Please help us to see through the eyes of those both near and dear, in addition to those who are far and seemingly different. Please help us to draw others to you through the gentle, caring words of Your truth and let us walk humbly as Your servants at all times. In Your holy and precious name we pray, Amen.

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