My new bumper sticker reads, “Be careful who you hate. It might be someone you love.”
It is a reminder not to categorize people or to assume that “all” of “those people” are somehow the same. As soon as we try to clump a group of people into a tidy category or description, we will miss someone’s amazing individuality.
“Gay people make me uncomfortable,” we might be tempted to say. Until we realize that our neighbor or neighbor’s beloved child fits that description.
“I don’t understand transgender people,” we might declare. Until we get to know someone who has fought for their identity and who advocates honesty in self-expression.
Although my bumper sticker has a rainbow stripe on it, I don’t think the concept is limited to LGBTQ issues. When we start talking about “all” people of color or “all” immigrants or “all” women who have had an abortion, we are missing something crucial. We are overlooking the sacred individuality that exists in each person. We are ignoring their personal stories. We are missing the unique child of God, created in God’s image.
I believe this bumper sticker invites me to look beyond the “packaging” of a person to see the individual. I believe I am urged to have a holy curiosity about each person so I can resist the temptation to dismiss someone as “one of them.”
It is easy to hate groups of people. A group is faceless. A group doesn’t have parents who love them or children who need them. A group doesn’t have emotions and lacks feelings that can be bruised or rights that can be trampled.
It’s when we look beyond the faceless crowd that we begin to recognize individuals with stories and backgrounds, journeys and struggles that have brought them to this time and place. Perhaps then I will not be as quick to dismiss “them.”
Instead of disregard, could I offer respect? Instead of turning away, could I listen? Instead of assuming I know their story and circumstances, could I be willing to wonder and learn?
A bumper sticker is such a simple thing – but it can teach an important lesson.