Words can be complicated. They can hurt or heal, divide or unite. Foster understanding or cause great misunderstanding.
I have been hearing words on the news about Baltimore this week like thugs, looters, rioters. Riots. Uprisings.
Last week, when there was so much death in the seas between Africa and Europe, we heard people described as migrants. In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other hot spots, we hear people referred to as villagers. People from Central America and Mexico are called illegal aliens.
These words all serve to separate them from us. They are villagers, we are suburbanites. They are migrants, we know people who are immigrants or refugees. They are rioters, thugs, looters. We know fans who got carried away during celebrations (and happened to hurt cops and burn cars and buildings). They were having riots, we have demonstrations. Us versus Them. Separation. Distinction.
Hmmm. They are not like us, making it so much easier to judge and criticize. What were they thinking? We wouldn’t do such a thing. They are problems. We are law abiding citizens.
But wait. What if we called them our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters? What if we thought of them as our neighbors? What if we replaced all those “they” words with children of God? Then how would we react?
Children of God protested the killing of an innocent man in Baltimore. Children of God are fleeing war, putting their children on a rickety, overloaded boat and risking everything for a better life. Children of God were victims of a terrible earthquake. Children of God are starving, thirsty, without hope. Children of God are walking hundreds of miles through Central America to our border for a chance at education, health care, good jobs, stability.
Now they sound like us, don’t they? Turns out, there is no they. We are all us. Together, all children of God, all loved, all valued, all important.
Next time you watch the news or listen to the radio, replace the words migrant, villager, thug, rioter, looter with children of God, and see how it changes your perspective. It’s the first step to changing the way we act, the way we treat others, the way the world works.
Try it, and comment below what happens.