I Have a Dream

Image owned by Samantha Bender, Noonday Ambassador

You're one of them, aren't you? You're Amish. 

It was a hot, humid afternoon, not at all uncommon for the West Indies, and it was my day off. The morning had found me at the beach, basking in the glow of the eastern sun, on the pier with a few of my roommates. But caught in the midst of a quick passing tropical storm, we decided to pack up our bags and drive downtown to our favorite fabric warehouse. A warehouse with walls lined in bolts of fabric boasting radiant Caribbean hues, and bins crammed with already cut, majorly reduced knits and cottons. 

And it was there, as I was sorting through the knits, searching for a yard and a half of the perfect cloth for a new skirt, that she attacked me. 

Now before we get too far into this story, I want you to know that this wasn't at all unusual. Growing up Mennonite, but especially as a girl, means that you look different and dress different than the majority of folks around you. So being approached by a stranger who questions the thing on your head or why you are wearing a dress or whether you are Mormon isn't exactly a cause for alarm. Most people are genuinely curious and mean no disrespect. Her character, however, I cannot vouch for.

Before I even had a chance to respond, she continued. 

Oh, I know all about you! I've seen the shows on TV. It's a cult, that is what it is! How can you even live with yourself? Folks like you disgust me. Trying to live plain and simple lives. You're ignorant and stupid. How can you blindly follow a group like that? How can you dress that way? You're ugly, all of you!

Her eyes were steely and cold. Her verbal assault caused everyone around me to stare. Without a chance to defend myself she was gone, glancing back, and probably spitting on the ground I would walk on. I was the most horrible human, scum of the earth, and for what? Something I had done? No, it was simply because of the religion I was born into.  

As we sat around the table that night, a mixture of skin tones and backgrounds and genders, we laughed as I retold the days events, mimicking the inflection in her voice and scowl in her facial expression... How can you dress that way? You're ugly, all of you! Her words didn't cut deep, we all knew we weren't the ones ignorant -- after all, everyone knows reality TV isn't really real.

I easily moved on, but I never forgot.

Over that past few months, as stories keep popping up over the Internet, stories about the refugee crisis and the war in Syria, this scene has replayed in my mind on repeat. 

We group people by race and religion and region, and we judge so harshly, without knowing them or their heart.

There are no easy answers, I get that! But I've seen so many people, Christians in fact, sharing things on social media, meme's that say "Until there are no homeless people in America, we have no room for refugees." or commenting about Muslim's with the same disdain that Jamaican lady hissed in my face, saying how Syrian mother's blow up their children, as if that is the norm and not the rare exception, and so we should never allow them in our country. 

2015 showed us that racism is still so strong, even here, especially here, in the United States. But it has also shown prejudices in other forms, against religions and people groups who many of us know little about leaving us feeling intimidated and scared.

As I hear stories over and over again, stories of Ferguson, Baltimore, Syria, I can't help but remember what it feels like to be hated not for what I have done, but for who I am. 

As odd as it may sound, I am thankful for that lady. She gave me a taste of what it feels like to be discriminated against, small as it was, and she left me more aware than I was before I met her. Aware that how I treat others through word and deed reflects so much more on me as a person, then on them. 

Friends, before we judge harshly about people we know little about, let us remember this:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -Martin Luther King


  1. Sarah, I love this post! What a great way to take what someone meant for evil and look at it a blessing and teachable moment.