This morning, as I came to the end of my run, I was in my cool down mode. I had just passed my house, when one of my neighbors, from across the street, backed out of his driveway. He saw me as I passed and cautiously asked, “I’m sorry, did I get too close to you?” “Of course not”, I said. He was not close at all.
As he drove away, I was in the process of clearing the thick saliva from my mouth, at the end of a 6 mile workout, and spitting it on the side of the road. At that moment, the thought came to me, “what if my neighbor thinks my spitting is a response to him?” You see, my neighbor is African-American. So I decided to hold my spit until he was well out of sight, and then I let it go.
As insignificant as this might seem, it was a wake-up call to me about how sensitive I need to be with my actions and reactions in today’s culture, especially when it comes to those of a different race or ethnicity. Racism is alive and strong today. Even though the Bible says God is no respecter of persons, we live in a culture that is charged with racist feelings and incidents. Some of these are intentional and calculated. Others may appear to be discriminatory but are anything but that.
One thing I don’t want to be is misinterpreted and seen as disrespectful or prejudiced in any way. There are times, though, when my actions might be misunderstood, so I have decided to hold my spit. In fact, here are a few other actions that I have decided to take when it comes to all people.
Equal Greetings: I want to welcome all people with the same kind of warmth. That means, going out of my way to greet and show acceptance. I will talk and interact with them. And there’s no better greeting than a good hug. So I hug those who are like me, and those who are different than I. I refuse to accept some and ignore others.
Equal respect: I will look at people when I talk to them. I will talk to them and not at them or past them. I will give my attention to them. Nothing is more aggravating and disrespectful than to deal with a person in a public service position, in a service sector job, who hardly acknowledges your presence. Respect means giving them my presence and attention.
Equal care: People get down and out. Times turn ugly rapidly. Ends don’t meet. Whether it is food, a ride, a little money for gas, clothes or whatever, I will see the need and not the color of the skin or the ethnicity of the person. And I will respond according to the need and my ability to meet that need whether they are like me or different from me.
Equal restraint: That means, as I began this post, refraining from any action that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I will hold my spit, turn after them instead of in front of them, be courteous and let them go in line in front of me even though I am starving or in a big hurry. The Bible says to “abstain from all appearances of evil.” That could just as well say “abstain from all appearances of prejudice.”
Equal encouragement: Everyone needs encouragement. Life is hard. We get knocked down. Sometimes it is totally unexpected. Other times it is just what we deserved. It is easy to encourage those of our kind. It is also easy to encourage those who we know will encourage us back. It is maturity, being like Jesus, to encourage those who are different than us. After all, that woman that Jesus met at the well, who found the water of life in him, was of a different race and nationality that he was. He reached out and gave to her what no one else had ever offered, acceptance, encouragement, and new life. I will commit to doing the same!
So check the temperature, your outfit, your hair, your wallet to make sure you have money, the gas in your tank, the weather forecast, your schedule, and 1000 other things. But above all else, check your attitude about other people, other people who are different than you whether it be gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or whatever. May we be devoted to removing every hint of favoritism, discrimination and prejudice in how we act toward ALL PEOPLE. Hold the spit!