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Being Open-Minded Means . . . by Elana F. Stanger L.C.S.W.

On the anniversary of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, in the 50th year since his assassination, let us take some time to think about his important message for the world, and for each one of us, its beloved inhabitants.

I think that one of the important points that may be distilled from MLK’s work to make interracial justice, equality, and harmony a reality, is to become more open-minded about people. As we still strive to develop The Beloved Community of which MLK spoke, we must embrace all kinds of people, from all walks of life, in all of our glorious diversity. Our differences are what make us special and able to contribute unique and precious gifts to the world at large.

Let us be less afraid to welcome new people into our circles of family, friends, acquaintances, and even business associates. Let us be less judgmental, more inclusive, and more welcoming.

When someone feels excluded, they know it and it hurts. Let us try to open our arms a little wider this year, and for the rest of our lives, to let someone special in, a little bit closer.

How do we get to know someone new? Well, let’s begin by being curious – not nosy however. We are not Peeping Toms trying to vicariously enter what may seem to be the more exotic lives of people who may seem different from us. We are not there, becoming friends, to exploit another’s experience. For example, if one of us is financially rich and another of us is financially poor, by all means, do open your arms wide and get to know one another, but do not assume the poor one has less, or the rich one has more, to offer to the relationship. Treat everyone with respect, dignity, and lovingkindness. Offer good listening, compassion, and understanding.  As you do, the friendship will gradually blossom, opening forth its petals to sunlight, to further nourish the both of you.

By being open-minded and non-judgmental, we do not limit ourselves to the point of constriction, where our world becomes small, our relations minute, and our happiness faint.

This year, and all of the years of our lives, may our hearts grow big as we welcome in the stranger, to find new friends. Let us make friends with strangers until there aren’t any more strangers, only friends among all of us.

Be happy!

Amen.