Why do human beings seem to have such difficulty relating to or accepting people who are different than they are? Why are we most comfortable with those who look, act and sound like we do? From my observations, it doesn’t appear that we are born with this particular tendency; it’s something we learn.

A number of years ago, my family accompanied a youth group on a short-term mission trip to a foreign country where the primary language spoken by the nationals was not English and the color of their skin was not white.

My daughters were about three and five years old at the time. We were traveling on a train and had a three-hour stop in a small town. We wanted to explore the town, but even more pressing was the need to get the girls out so they could stretch their legs and release some energy.

Just a few blocks from the train station, we came upon a park with a playground. The girls’ eyes lit up, but I wasn’t quite sure the local children would tolerate them. In a few moments, the children on the playground noticed us and became quite animated as they seemed to be involved in a discussion related to us.

When they’d resolved the issue, a delegation of two of the older children approached us. They greeted my daughters with familiar friendly gestures. Then they turned their attention to me and seemed to seek my permission for my girls to join them.

Karissa and Kortney figured it out before I did and looked up pleadingly. Finally, I assented. The delegation took my girls by the hand and led them to the playground. Those occupying the swings were quickly removed and my little girls were hoisted up. Under the supervision of the older children, they were soon swinging high into the air.

In mere moments, in the midst of laughter and screams of delight, I realized I was no longer conscious of their differences, but rather their shared joy.

by Chaplain Ron Hyrchuk

September 28, 2006