there are plenty of labels to go around in my hood.
white trash. ghetto. hipster. hipster-wannabe. dirty hippies. damn kids. lazy couch surfer. drunk. deadbeat dad. smoker. bum. homeless guy. beggar. anarchist college kids. lesbians. preppies. crazy religious. not to mention the racist ones i refuse to repeat.
and the list goes on and on.
i mean, i get it. i’m guilty of it. just before writing this, as i pulled out of the taco shop parking lot, i saw a haggard looking family, children running about, an older looking grandpa like figure smoking a cigarette as he rode his bike around and in front of my car as i attempted to leave.
several labels immediately came to mind.
then, another thought:
what if i looked at them with compassion?
and my perspective started to shift.
in light of today’s ruling striking down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, i’m reminded of a lot of labels that have been pretty prominent in my life for this past year.
gay. homo. fag. abomination. god-damned.
when the only labels i ever recognized were friend. family. people i love.
as i sat listening to hours of testimony in January, through two different hearings and hours of hurtful, hateful labels, my heart ached for these critics to see more. to see the human behind the label. to see their tears, hear their cries, understand their fearful hearts.
see, that’s the thing about labels. they distance us from the human beneath the label. they protect us and insulate us from wrestling with the paradigm shift that people who are different from us create. they keep us from responding with compassion. in fact, they justify us not responding at all. after all, if i can find a label that proves that person deserves what they’re getting, then i have no responsibility to them.
and if they keep us from all those things, they perpetuate hate, and anger, and war. essentially, every evil in this world starts with our simple judgment on one another.
it won’t happen overnight. it may not even happen in our lifetime. but everyday should begin to serve as an opportunity to practice dropping the label.
or better yet, converting it.