I have been a Kansas resident my entire life; this being the case, I have not grown up around quite as much diversity as many other Americans in my generation have-especially those from larger urban areas where such diversity is generally more welcomed. Don’t get me wrong, I love my state. It’s my home and it will always be very special to me, but I see examples of partiality based on race all the time. Recently in McPherson an Indian family has become the owners of several hotels and gas stations around town. No big deal right? I didn’t think so, so when I saw them in the gas station I conversed with them about where they were from and briefly talked to them about my love for travel. I found out that we had a lot in common. Frankly I think the man was shocked that a white person actually wanted to have a conversation with him that entailed more than just how much money was owed for gas or what type of cigarette pack to bring down from the shelf. Similarly I recently went into a new little place across from the movie theater called “Flora Azul” that obviously catered to a more Hispanic variety than myself. My first tip off was when I asked the guy behind the counter what his hours were he simply replied, “yes.” I used my very limited Spanish to gather that the store was open from 10 to 6. They had a great selection of homemade tortillas, assorted vegetables and custom piñatas which I readily indulged in all but the latter.
For some reason a lot of people around here seem to have it in their minds that if your grandparents weren’t raised here, if you’re last name isn’t Unruh, Schultz or Clark, or even if you’re not blatantly Caucasian (yeah, I said it) then you have no right to run a business or be successful in this town. Could it be that this world is bigger than the 13,396 people who reside in McPherson? Would it really be so bad if some ethnically diverse families moved into town and joined the nearly 94% white population to show us what their traditions and customs are like? Maybe we could even go so incredibly far as to actually show outsiders some hospitality, show them OUR customs and try to get to know them as people! Maybe that’s just one little part of what we are supposed to be doing when we reach out as the church. Think about what America was like before European conquistadors gobbled up the West centuries ago, what Australia was like before England started pushing Aborigines into the western deserts, or before England once again began westernizing much of Sub-Saharan Africa. The land which we live on today never belonged to us, and maybe it doesn’t really belong to any one specific ethnic group. I think we would do very well in cooperating with one another and realizing that every person created in the image of God has value whether he is a 5th generation McPherson native working hard to feed his family or a Vietnamese immigrant new to town searching for a better life so that he can take care of his own. If we show respect to people because they are people, then chances are good that they are going to show respect right back to us. Even if they don’t, we can take solace in the fact that we have done the right thing. What’s more reassuring than that?