This is my 8th entry in my This I Believe series.
None of the remaining topics are really jumping out at me, demanding to be written about. So this one is dedicated to the adorable mid-thirties lady in the white coat behind me at Meijer tonight. Here’s why…
This topic, society, was a little bit depressing (much like “prejudice”) when I read about it in my students’ writing. Several of them were actually quite negative about society, expressing pessimistic beliefs that are, I’m sure, rooted in a blue-collar upbringing. How do “we” (collectively) get to the point where we only acknowledge the negatives?
I believe that when we wallow in negative outlooks, it’s basically a self-fulfilling prophecy because that is all that we see and understand. And really, my case in point lies in the Meijer store tonight, when I had to scrounge for a free cart and waited nearly 30 minutes to get through the check-out. There was seemingly a lot to be grumpy and negative about. No doubt the cashiers were hearing lots of negativity, too. I was a cashier in a grocery store for a couple of years long long ago. I remember those nights. I remember the scowly lady who wanted to write a check when going through the cash-only line. It’s so easy to let those negative events affect you and color your way of thinking about people.
But I believe that society, while a collective noun, is mostly individuals who fit together in some sort of patchwork puzzle. I don’t suggest that I’ve much experienced this first-hand, but I listen and read and absorb this information in a manner of ways. I grew up in a white community, attended a white public school, chose a largely white private college, and now teach in a white public school that is situated on the outskirts of a white community. Circular, don’t you think?
But I believe that society isn’t just color variations, though I think when I went to college I probably felt this way. Society is a collection of thoughts and ways of life, different professions and sports affiliations, contrasting routines and eccentricities. In other words, a “white” community can be multi-faceted, too. I mean, look at my “brown bag sisters” from college—three charming, idiosyncratic, experienced, knowledgeable, creative, empathetic white women, all born within 5 months of each other, all from within a 100 mile radius in northern Indiana. The same yet…way different! But, we’re still a society, albeit a small one. And, frankly, I find much to be optimistic about with these girls let alone many of my students, colleagues, and friends who live in my city and all around the world. SO MANY good things are happening all over the place that I find it inherently hard to be pessimistic.
And my new friend, the mid-thirties lady in the white coat, you were so nice to chat with in an otherwise unpleasant situation. Thanks. I choose you to represent my society, the one that I want to live in. This, I believe.