My blog postings have been infrequent at best in the past few months and I hope to step it up. This does take discipline and I need to buckle down to take a moment to write out of my busy days! But something happened yesterday that I cannot shake and I am compelled to write about it.
I met with a gentleman who has enjoyed a career in education worthy of note and admiration. I took this meeting because he wanted to share some of his ideas about reaching out to youth helping to change lives. I never met this man before and didn't really know much about him other than having knowledge of the people who referred him to me. He obviously didn’t know much about me either.
After we exchanged small talk at the beginning of the meeting, he looked at me and asked, “Are you a woman of faith?” My initial reaction was, should I launch into a lecture of “what business is it of yours” and respond accordingly as I was seething inside? No, I took a deep breath and answered in calm but frosty tone, “I am a woman of faith but what do you mean by your question?” I certainly knew what he meant and as he hemmed and hawed and squirmed in his chair, he asked, “Do you go to church? Do you belong to a church?” I did not answer his questions and said let's move on.
For the few of you who are reading this, you may have your own notions of how you would have responded and that’s fine. But here’s my real message as to why I am writing this. I am a person who wants to understand how people think and what shapes their thoughts and ideas. Frankly though, it is still a shock to me to encounter the questions of religion, faith or whatever. This hasn’t happened to me in years and has only happened here! Plain and simple, when it comes to religion and political leanings, it is not your business.
If we are ever going to be a community that embraces difference, that views the changes going on around us as exciting and full of possibility, and that works with people where they are without judgment, then we have got to stop asking these questions. People who move to our area share with me their shock when they encounter such questioning. The fact that there are people who still feel that they have the right to ask these questions is very disturbing to me.
I want to yell off the top of our building on Grandville and Oakes - "knock it off!" It is my business not yours.
I lead a Foundation that is built on the values that I hold dear: integrity, inclusion, excellence, sustainability, and going forth with bold aspirations. Inclusion means welcoming beyond acceptance. It means embracing change and difference. It means equity.
Grand Rapids and West Michigan, let’s move forward.