Make No Assumptions

In one of the most valuable workshops I’ve ever attended, the participants were asked to consider the many subgroups to which we all belonged. Each individual was asked to join one of the groups, and each shared stereotypes they hoped to never hear again. Before that encounter, I had not thought of the tremendous range of potential group identities that could exist within a room of people. Then, we began to talk about removing the barriers. Before that experience, I was pretty open about others, but I learned I had to be a lot less narrow in my definition of culture groups. From then on, when meeting strangers or interacting with members of new groups, I have made an effort not to define the persons according to a template of how they could, should, or might be. Now that I am much older, and I hope even a little bit wiser, I try to hold no expectation of what a new encounter might bring. I try to wait and let the natural progression of the meeting unfold. I am rarely disappointed, and I learn so much more than when I anticipate, because I’ve learned that my knowledge base is just too limited to fathom the extent of possibilities each new experience might bring. I’m offering the following two quotes for your thoughts:
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion.
Respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your
people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision . . . ” — Chief Tecumseh (Shawnee Nation)
“What is tolerance? — it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly — that is the first law of nature.” — Voltaire
During this month of love may we remember that tolerance is not accepting a person, because they are willing to change to accommodate our vision of what he or she might be. Rather it is the recognition that we are all manifestations of the communities in which we were raised and choices we’ve made along the way. With so many variables, viewing others through our lens often results in a lot of images which are out of focus.
Peace and contentment to all.
Jakki , for the HHL AAUW Diversity Co

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One Response to Make No Assumptions

  1. Kathe Mayer says:

    Jakki, I really liked your post. I hope many read it and understand its meaning.

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