Why are we afraid of each other? What discourages us from reaching out to others more frequently? Fear is a strong emotion that paralyzes anyone. It does not allow us to do things that would help us communicate and understand each other. We rather keep compartmentalizing groups of people by race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, fashions, levels of education, etc. We prefer to keep separate from those who are different. We want to stay away from people who don’t think or act the same way we do. It is easier. Some people may deny this, but it is true. I was driving down the road today and noticed a bumper sticker on another car that said “Tolerance” with each letter looking like a symbol of different religions. I thought “Is that what we need, more tolerance? How do we do that exactly?
It is almost as if we need to get out of our comfort zones, and be brave enough to spend time with others that are different from us. But wait, can we simply do this when we already have preconceptions about each other? I guess not. But it is not only the difference of religions, but also the difference of ethnicity, social status, and personalities. I walk down the road and try to look at people’s eyes, and they are looking away. We are together, but lonely at the same time. We see each other, but not at each other. We hear each other, but don’t listen to each other. We simply avoid each other. What exactly are we afraid of? Being ridiculed? Being singled out? Being “contaminated” by others’ traditions and customs? What do we tend to think that we are better than others? Or that others are dangerous and therefore should be avoided?
But, you know who does not act this way? Children. They come to this world with a fresh set of mind. Actually, they come to this world with an empty mind, ready to be filled up with whatever we put inside of them. We fill their minds with whatever we choose to believe in: hatred, religion, tolerance, racism, segregation, etc. They are vulnerable to whatever we teach them. In actuality, children should be the ones who teach us how to be “empty” as they are. We can learn from children to be respectful and tolerant in spite of differences of opinion. We can learn from children to be accepting and to reach out to others in spite of difference of race and religion.