Huh – I didn’t know that.

What have you learned lately?  Have you heard a piece of trivia that surprised you? Did something in the news catch your attention?  Was there some snippet of information that made you shake your head and say, “Huh – I didn’t know that.” 

            There is information that ranges from fascinating to useless. Did you know that the pattern on the inside of a the eight of diamonds forms the number eight? Did you realize that many staplers contain a storage area for extra staples?  Had you heard that fingernails grow at three times the rate as toenails? No? Well, we learn something new every day.

            Much of what we know and learn is based on our own experience, interest, and perspective. My beekeeper husband regularly offers me tidbits about the care and feeding of bees. Did you know that bees need to be fed sugar water this time of year because there are not yet enough flowers to provide nectar? Or that hives require a “mouse guard” during winter months to prevent tiny rodents from invading and setting up housekeeping in the cozy hive?

            What we know – and don’t know – alters how we think about something. Right now, I am reading a book called Waking up White by Debby Irving. Over and over again I find myself saying, “Huh – I didn’t know that.” Did you know that when the Homestead act offered early settlers 160 acres of farmland in exchange for working the land for five years the opportunity was not extended to recently freed slaves? That ensured that newcomers to the midwestern territories were primarily white and European. Did you know that when returning servicemen were offered the G.I. Bill to help with education and housing costs it did not include veterans of color? Suburbs turned into white neighborhoods and advanced schooling was curtailed for African Americans.  When I read (and fact-checked) that, I had to say, “Huh – I didn’t know that.”

            As God’s people we are called to care about our neighbors. That requires learning about their lives, experiences, and perspectives. We can start by asking questions. Do you know what it’s like to be autistic and struggle to communicate? Or to be a six-year-old and practice an active shooter drill in school? Or to be elderly and experience limited hearing and curtailed mobility? Neither do I, but I believe we are called to wonder about one another. I have never been followed by suspicious clerks when I enter a store, but that is not an uncommon experience for a person of color. Most women are familiar with being careful where they walk at night, strategically parking in lighted areas and grasping keys in their fingers for protection whereas these precautions may be foreign to men.

When we are told “judge not,” it is often because we do not know – and do not have the information or experience – to understand another person’s story. We are called to listen and learn so that we can say, “Huh – I didn’t know that” and perhaps change our perspective. This is another form of hospitality; it is welcoming new ideas and perspectives so all of God’s people can live and work together.