We are all probably familiar with the story of the woman at the well. But just in case ““There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””
Maybe you’ve done bible studies with that passage and broken apart the symbolism, or maybe you haven’t. Either way today I want you to focus on verse 9, “The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”
As I was sitting here praying about the racism issues we face all around the world this verse came to mind. Some of you may want to just stop reading at this point, you’re tired of hearing it, but I encourage you to press on.
For those of you who don’t know I am in my last week of student teaching at a high school in Omaha. This school is full of amazing students that I love wholeheartedly. Of those 2,000 + students about 60-70% are black. Growing up I went to a school that was probably 90% white. Though this high school is much different than my past experience I went in enthusiastic about it. Deep down though I had fears. What if I say something that comes across the wrong way? What if my lack of understanding gets in the way?
Neither of those things happened, but I did find both myself and my students had underlying biases and stereotypes that we believed about ourselves and each other. I’ve had students say to me that if I ever got yelled at in school I’d probably cry because that’s what little white girls do, they ain’t ‘tough’.
Or when I taught them about melanin (instead of doing the basics for evolution and genetics), both the students and I learned so much about skin tone and it brought up a lot of conversations. I remember at one point during the unit I caught myself saying fair skinned instead of light skinned, and the students never said anything, but I hated that I said it and actually chose to correct myself for it. I’ve learned the best thing I can do is acknowledge these little things (assumptions or stereotypes) and have a conversation. It doesn’t make me racist if I have these underlying biases, it’s racist to feed into them and act on it. And it’s not doing anyone a favor if we don’t get them out of our heads once we find them.
Doesn’t matter how nice of a person you are, if you’ve been exposed to society you have it in your depths. It’s like sun spots from the sun, we all have them even if you can’t see them. But what does it take to overcome these underlying beliefs we all have?
It takes sharing your life with others. Read all the books you want, but until you acknowledge we are all humans and not little gold fish that you can read up on to learn how to care for you are never going to quite understand. Immerse yourself into a culture different then your own. Not so you can post about it on the Instagram or look good, but to have your heart touched in a way it hasn’t been touched before. Set yourself free to love more deeply. Because what that woman encountered at the well was so much more than the kindness of a Jew. She encountered the face of God Himself. And she was deeply moved by this, and stricken by His simple humanity. Totally stricken by the fact that he looked right past the woman everyone else saw, and gazed directly at her true identity. Looking at her as though he was looking in a mirror. Pointing out the fact she had five husbands was not to shame her, but rather to say, “Yes woman, I know what you’re ashamed of, but I still choose you.”
His look says I know who you think you are, but trust me I know who you really are. You are mine. It is you that I chose to share life with. Through this moment more than just water was shared. And I feel like this Gospel moment sums up my semester. Teachers in the building and even friends warned me that I’d probably be cursed at, see a fight, and that it was going to be tough. Those people were wrong and the only tough part is when a student doesn’t understand how much I love them, or the toughest thing will probably be leaving. I’ve shared my life with these students, they know that I go home and tell my mom how much they mean to me and how much she loves them too. They know I’m willing to talk about the tough things with an open heart. They know I’ll never know what it’s like to experience some of the things they have experienced. They also know despite what they believed previously that I’m not all that different from them. One day they decided to teach me about the process of getting dreads, and the next laughed about me and my cowgirl boots and how I shouldn’t wear them in the Bronx. They taught me that it’s disrespectful to use someone’s full gov (full name). And that I’m always gonna be just “Miss” to most of them, not Miss Olson. And I’m okay with that. And I’m proud to say my favorite kiddos in the world call me “Miss”. We spent several weeks learning about the biology behind skin color and the importance of learning it so that we can see the beautiful reasons why we are so different yet still the same in so many ways. I’ve noticed this growth in not only myself but in my kiddos as well. The first day we brought up melanin a few students made some border line comments. And I noticed quickly how they started comparing themselves saying things like “I’m black, but not that black” or “you are too light to be black bro.” I also noticed that none of them had any interest in careers and science and a lot of them believed the lie that science is a white people thing to study.
But it was so cool to see their reactions to the scientific work of people they could identify with. I also loved seeing their answers on the test when I asked, “what is one interesting thing you learned?”
I got a ton of different answers, but many of them said that they found it so amazing how our bodies evolved different skin tones in order to survive in different geographic regions. They thought it was so cool that our bodies could do these things and then pass it down through generations. They were fascinated by the beautiful truth about the goodness of their bodies.
My point is this world is lacking love, and it is deeply affecting our little ones. It affects what they believe about themselves, what they are capable of, and who they believe they are supposed to be. It affects the way they respond to others, it makes them have assumptions about what others think of them, and how they value themselves. I pray that you be part of the change. That you chose to imitate Christ. That YOU CHOOSE to go out of your way to not just learn, but experience. I pray that in a world full of hate, you chose to love. I forget what saint said it but in places where there is no love to be found, put love in it. We must stop choosing sides, and start choosing love. We must acknowledge that it’s real and that we have a bias, and do something about it. And the best thing you can do is love. Live life fully with others. Will their good. Fall in love with the beauty of Christ radiance that shines forth from the heart of every human soul.