It’s a great moment in life when you finally mature and set aside the trivial trappings of the tribalism of youth. Like the contemporary Hipsters of today with their man buns, beards and moral relativism, such was the grunge culture of my youth with their flannel, combat boots and moral relativism. Whether you were a punk, deadhead, goth, goat roper, geek, jock, scholar, or whatever, there comes that acme of self -absorption, then the exhale when you become a real adult and can blare whatever music you want, like Johnny Cash for instance, and not have your very judgmental progressive Melissa Ethridge fan friend sneer at you and give you a lecture on the misogyny of the 60’s music industry!
No! Now as adults we can, without brooking insults nor dishing them out, enjoy, whatever music, clothes, books or food that we desire! Not only can we unabashedly enjoy the Piano Guys AND Def Leppard, we can like anyTHING and we can like anyONE. A natural bi-product of knowing who you are, a CHILD OF GOD no less, is that you recognize that everyone around you is also a Child of God, as well. In the JP Sartre, play “No Exit,” a character determines that “hell is other people.” This is a common attitude among the children of men. Instead of appreciating our place and purpose on Earth alongside our fellow adventurers on their similar journey, we consider the other travelers as nuisances and enemies out to impede us at every turn. Yet we still base our worth on their perception of us, what’s that about?.
At a park I was listening in (it’s not eavesdropping if there is no expectation of privacy) on some ladies who were going on and on about the women they hated. I considered this for a moment trying to reach for names of anyone, man or woman that I “hated” or even disliked. And, apart from the names of some politicians, who offer themselves up to scorn, I couldn’t come up with one. Yup, I pretty much like everyone. Now…that’s NOT to say that I don’t think some folks are crazy, vulgar, needy, manipulative, slovenly, dishonest, lazy, deceitful, delusional, self-righteous or life sucking vampires or that I don’t hide valuables when some folks come over. Just because I think your politics are scary or that you are a lousy housekeeper, doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It was my non-Mormon grandpa who advised, “When you meet people, always look for qualities about them that you like.” I think it was Roy Rogers or Louis L’amour who said it first, but it is wisdom indeed.
When we learn to love our neighbor, we open ourselves to having millions of friends. The childish and clannish cliques we create as self absorbed adolescents in high school were really just little echo chambers reflecting or own personalities and the development thereof. Time to eschew! I’m going to go outside the normally accepted Mormon attitude that says that if we have a negative opinion about someone else that we are projecting hate or overlooking the mote in our own eye. It’s okay to have your own opinions about other people’s cooking, parenting skills, fashion tastes, child rearing, etc. But we must not allow petty personality and homemaking differences keep us from making friends or at least making peace….with everyone.
Some of my favorite people started out as folks that were not on my favs list. Early in my church membership, before the gospel of love truly infiltrated me at the cellular level, I was more quick to make assumptions, like I did with Sister P. I didn’t actually meet her for a long time after I moved into the stake, but I knew her children. Every stake or combined ward activity, her children were there, loud, aggressive and all over the place. Now, you must know that I was raised to be polite, and conscientious of other people and to always be aware that I was not unduly intruding on others comfort. As children, we were expected to act a certain way in public. So I was easily shocked by the attitudes of some mothers in allowing their children to run wild at public events.
So though I didn’t know Sister P, I thought I knew all I needed to know about her because I knew her children. It was a third party that got us together. “YOU and Sister P are so much alike, you really need to get to know her!” ????? Oh, reaaally! Well, soon after that, we had an evening with other couples and I did meet Sister P formally. And it was true, she and I had lots in common. She was as normal as I was! For real! And, through the years, my respect for her grew until she became one of my favorite people. Her kids? Well, amazingly, I grew to love her kids, and the dozens of other unruly children in the ward. So, ladies, are you the grouchy woman on the park bench making an accounting of all the people you don’t like, or are you the self aware adventurer eager to meet other children of a Heavenly Father and exchange recipes and life events? Do I like the two ladies on the park bench who actually have a list of folks they hate? All I can say to that is that it’s good they have each other.