Yesterday, Gibbs and I were out walking. It was a beautiful fall day, cold with blue skies, and we were having fun taking in the colors and smells around us. It was busier than usual, so we had bumped into a few people, but there was still lots of silence and peace. We came to a path that is fairly well traveled, and saw two young women ahead walking towards us. I never know how people are going to react to Gibbs being off leash, so I told him to stay by my side. We approached these women, and I saw they were Muslim, Hijab’s covering their hair, jackets and warm clothes covering the rest of their bodies, only gentle, shining faces showing. I gave them a warm smile, and they smiled back, but their attention was really on Gibbs. “Ahhhhh. Can we pet your dog?” they exclaimed. I gave Gibbs permission to go up to them, and he did, happily wagging his tail, but when they bent down and quickly reached out, he gave a little growl, and backed up. One of the women quietly said, “even the dog doesn’t like us,” with a disappointed tone in her voice.
I crouched down by Gibbs and petted him, and told them to try again, this time reaching out their hands so he could go to them. With this approach he was more than happy to be petted and give kisses as he received their attention.
We began to talk, and one asked where I was from, commenting on my accent. In our talking I discovered one had been born in Kenya and the other in Somalia, and that they were having trouble finding their place, struggling to fit in, straddling the culture of their family and the culture of Central Minnesota. I listened, and said I was sorry they were not feeling accepted with open arms, and, in that moment, I was grateful for Gibbs and his loving nature that, as soon as he knew he was safe, was eager to shower love and acceptance to these young women.
We were soon going our separate ways, them giving me a warning about driving in the snow, but how beautiful winter was if you didn’t get in a car, and me wishing them a beautiful walk. As I continued on my way I felt a heaviness for these two…. The feeling of alienation they had expressed based on the color of their skin and the clothes they wear. The sadness behind their words when they had reached out too quickly to Gibbs, scaring him. The culture we are living in where some feel empowered to speak and act out their prejudices. And I prayed for Aman and Soraya, asking God to open people’s hearts to see the kindness and love they have to share for the world. And I prayed that their walk would bathe them in healing and beauty and awe-filled moments as it had me.
I am still carrying this prayer this morning… that we can look beyond, behind, beneath what we might first see, to acknowledge the beauty inside…. And, more than this, that we will stop judging what we see, what we think we know, what we have been told about the absence of love in differences, and just see love as the first thing. For God created us all in our abundant diversity and beauty and offers many paths for us to remember this. And it is a good and wonderful thing that this is so!