The differences that divide us



By Betty Slade

Differences of ideas, culture and religion have become a threat to many peoples’ way of life. To feel safe, we make up our minds to reject any new thought that doesn’t line up with ours. But, this shortsightedness can be a looking glass lacking clarity of view. 

In the book by Gregory Boyle, “Tattoos on the Heart,” he writes about how society renders certain members of the human race as outcast or those to be feared. Take the man with a tattooed face and body, for example. It is easy to immediately assume he is someone dangerous. 

Our reaction in judging others may come from our own façade, the one we hide behind — a mask we wear so others see us for who we want them to see, not for who we truly are. 

Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, runs a gang intervention program. His organization has become synonymous with rescuing young men from the hands of drugs and violence. 

Their badge of honor? Wearing ink that represents who they belong to, a family that gives them value and identity. 

Differences in family are not limited to tattoos that mark an affiliation or define an outer appearance. Sometimes these differences present themselves in the form of a belief or doctrine. 

For many years, my life has been different from the world my family came from. I was born and raised in the San Luis Valley. Those who share in my beginnings understand the badge of honor and pride that holds. 

There is, however, one major difference that separates me from my family. I did not share the same religious belief. 

Last weekend, I, along with many others, attended the grave-side service of a cousin who recently passed. Afterward, several of us went to the family plot where we could pray together. It was in that moment when I saw us as one, not as those who were divided by belief. 

For 60 years, there has always been a wall as big as Wolf Creek Pass itself standing between “the insiders and the outsiders” of the Valley. This wall represents a stand I have taken — by grace we are saved through Jesus Christ. 

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13 what love is, and is not. He explains love as who we were in the past, who we are now and how we will be known in the future. He also wrote that we see dimly, until such a time as love allows us to see beyond our differences. 

I always wondered why I came from the Valley when my walk was in such contrast to those whose DNA I share. While my religious belief hasn’t changed, my heart saw a beauty for a people that was not shadowed by our difference, but by our love for one another. 

Final brushstroke: We need those who are different from us to show us who we are. As I read Boyle’s book, compassion for those who are different was on every page. His stories relate to how his life has been fulfilled because of those who are different. Fortunately, Jesus goes to where love has not yet arrived, allowing us to see beyond the differences that divide us. 

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