Sometimes I forget what an island of sanity I'm fortunate enough to inhabit, here in Northern California (and what a den of insanity much of the world considers this to be). I'm so happy, and a bit proud, to live in a place where tolerance is a virtue. We're not perfect, but I truly believe that we accept one another here more readily than people do in many places. And we're more conscious of how our words and actions affect each other as well.
I got a message today from someone who lives in a more insular part of the country, where most people are the same and therefore differences are perceived more starkly. I guess when you are used to everyone looking the same, you might resent or even fear the changes that would come from accepting someone different into your tidy little world. Maybe you don't even realize that you think this way, because everyone else shares your narrow perspective.
This person, talking about a family member who had relationships with people considered unacceptable in that community, used some words that were racially charged. To me, they were offensive words, but to the writer they were merely the way people talk. I'm sure they meant something different to each of us, and it's hard to know how a person really feels from words on a page. We will be face to face later this year, and the same words will draw a different reaction from me. For now, I'm letting them go and moving on.
I don't know, maybe this is wrong. But I think the best way to educate a person I feel is ignorant about something as basic as tolerance is by example. I will use different words, the kind that embrace the diversity that my correspondent denigrates. I never responded well to lessons where I was told how to do something, much less how to think. I've always done better following someone I thought I could learn from, then testing myself against their standard.
Some beliefs are such a basic part of me that I don't see them as beliefs. To me they're the truth. But I understand that resistance to change comes just as naturally to some people, even those I care about. This is when I have a hard time preaching or chastising, but it's never hard for me to live my own truth, and I think that's the best kind of sermon.