Beautiful sunny Sunday morning, temp around 72 at our mid-winter get-away in the Dominican Republic. I took bread from breakfast to use in communion as Steve and I worshiped together since I hadn’t remembered to bring the travel communion sets. Then I realized I hadn’t gotten any juice. We hadn’t seen any grape juice here, so I went to the bar and asked for a glass of red wine. The bartender gave it to me without judgment (even though it was 10:15 a.m.) and I headed toward our room.
On the way, I met two young women going to the pool, one carrying a can of beer. As they passed, she raised the can and said, “Cheers!” She obviously thought she’d found a kindred spirit.
Of course Steve thought it was hilarious, but it made me ponder how people can jump to the wrong conclusions based on appearances and lack of complete information. I could have explained, but that would only have embarrassed her. I just mumbled something incoherent as I passed them.
When I think of judging others, I often consider what we as Americans think of the rest of the world. I’ve observed that many Christians think all Muslims are out to kill them, and many Muslims think all Christians are out to kill them. We get such skewed ideas based on very small samplings. (Christians feel that they know about Muslims because of 9/11 and our fight in the Mideast. Some Muslims still refer to the atrocities of the Crusades when Christians attacked Muslims in the name of Jesus and assume the same is still true.)
And I think of what Americans think of other countries they visit based on an equally small sampling. On our first visit to Phuket, Thailand, for example, Steve and I stayed at a beautiful resort on the seacoast. If that had been our only exposure, we would not have known the real Thailand. But the LST team there stayed in an ordinary home in an ordinary neighborhood. We rode tuk-tuks to and from, as did the locals. We ate (delicious, by the way!)street food as did the locals. We saw the contrast.
But what about when Americans see only the resorts? This week we were in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. It is beautiful, as you can see from these pictures. Beautiful and gracious dark-skinned men and women waited on us with food and drink at our command.
And yet I wonder about their real lives, removed from the resort. I wonder about their home lives. For several years Steve and I have sent money each month to support a child on the other side of the Dominican Republic—the poor side of the island . Yeisi Acosta lives in a hut with her four siblings and both parents. If someone didn’t send money, she could not afford to have the clothes or books she needs to go to school.
In the time we’ve been helping her, she has grown from a wiry 7-year-old to a 15-year-old young woman. We get a picture each year and a couple of letters from her. She tells a little about her life, but mainly she expresses appreciation for our help. (If you are interested in supporting a child in a third world country, go to Christian Relief Fund for more information. Check them on Charity Navigator to see what percentage of their funds go directly to the children compared to other international charities. It’s impressive.)
This is true of so many countries that Americans go to that have beautiful resorts. This isn’t real life; neither is what people in other countries see on television about the United States. Can you imagine what people in other countries think of America based on television shows? Think of your favorite shows or shows you hear people talking about. Are they about real life in the USA? Maybe, but probably not. From “Survivor” to “The Big Bang Theory” to “The Bachelor,” our television programs are often for escape, not to show what real life in America is like.
In the same way, resorts do not show a country realistically. They provide a time for people to escape their daily work world or the throes of winter (our reason). I’m not condemning resorts; I’m just saying we should understand that going to a resort is like going to Disneyland or Disney World. It’s not the real world, but an escape from the real world.
Just as the woman who thought I was drinking at 10 in the morning had an unrealistic view of my situation, we can have unrealistic views of other people and their cultures. Let’s be the person who tries to go beyond the surface and really see people as individuals. Let’s see each other as God sees us—all equal in His sight, all special to Him. And not just see each other as equals, but treat each other with love and respect, just as Jesus did. In his own words:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.