I’ve never shared this story much, but with anti-Asian “hate” and prejudice in the news I thought it most relevant.
My mother came to the United States from Japan in 1956—just 11 years after World War II had ended. She married an American soldier. Because of the proximity to WWII, my dad told my mom not to teach us to speak Japanese. There was little in our house to remind us of her Japanese heritage, although I remember her humming a Japanese lullaby to me when I was just a toddler.
In my early elementary years, my Asian heritage was evident. Kids surrounded me on the playground, made squinty eyes at me, and chanted, “Chinese, Japanese, American knees!” as they contorted their faces to demonstrate how differently I looked from them. I got into fights, and people spit on me.
While some of it lessened as I got older, even when I was in my mid-20s it surfaced again in a painful way. My wife’s grandfather came from the era of those who still refused to buy Japanese cars, and my future father-in-law tried to talk me out of getting married to his daughter because of “how our children would look.”
I would never be inclined to think that my struggles were the same as other ethnic minorities. They were not. But they were real.
And these struggles remind me that hate and prejudice stem from small-minded people—those who cannot accept people different from themselves. Indeed, hate and prejudice over things like skin tone and the slant of the eyes makes one’s world smaller, narrower, impoverished.
In startling contrast, I’m reminded of Jesus, who entered our world a stranger to the ruling hierarchy of the world. In a world set in its ways, he welcomed foreigners and women around him. He gave children a place of honor. He did what was good and right in the Father’s eyes, even though it ultimately cost him his life.
There’s a proverb that applies beautifully to his life. The Message translation of Proverbs 11.24 reads this way: The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
Here’s what we need to remember: generosity includes the way we view others, the way we think of them, how we speak about and speak to people. Including people who look different from us, but also people who think and vote differently from us.
After all, Jesus’ life matched what he taught, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.44-45a NIV).
Let’s follow his lead into the wide world of the generous. Cultivate a generosity of spirit. It makes our lives—and our world—all the richer.
Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash
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Published June 11, 2021