A few weeks ago, I was walking across the academic quad in front of the library when I came across a middle-aged man and his two daughters handing out little pamphlets. Now my initial reactions were both of intrigue and a desire to keep on walking past as quickly as possible.
This sight was not an unfamiliar one for students here at Shippensburg University. We are very familiar with various people of the general public passing out Bibles and other Christian literature, as well as political advertisements outside of the library and inside the Ceddia Union Building. Most people will keep on walking, turning a blind eye and almost automatically “Us v. Them-ing” whoever they were. However, a few weeks back I chose to stop and figure out what this man really wanted.
His name was Paul and he asked me a few trick questions — “How many animals did Moses load onto the ark,” and “What is the method of communication using raised bubbles that deaf people use to communicate?”
His point behind these questions was that “every man one day has to look critically at the deeper questions in life.”
We talked a little bit about my own personal religious beliefs and discussed his call to mission to college students. The point behind this story is not about religion nor my own experience but the general need for all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and begin conversations with others we traditionally would sweep past.
In the face of political and social unrest over the Black Lives Matter movement, the 2020 Election and today’s social climate, we have all been urged to promote a diverse and inclusive society. Diversity is a “mindset of welcoming differences of opinions,” said SU Chief Diversity Officer, Stephanie Jirard, at the Student Organization Leadership Summit earlier this academic year.
However, we must go a step further and not only welcome differences of opinion, but actively seek to understand other’s point of view, life experiences and differing opinions.
So next time you see someone tabling or campaigning for a political party, religious sect or organization and you take your five-second glimpse, keep your body and mind focused on them for a bit longer.
Even a few minutes can drastically change your mind set on a topic or at least let you explore a new idea or belief. As an institution of higher education, we should all answer the call to creating a truly inclusive society, one that welcomes differences of opinion, no matter how different from our own beliefs they are. These differences of opinion include political beliefs, ideas on race, religious beliefs, understanding of gender identity and so many more categories.
We need to answer the question “Do you have a minute?” with an affirmative “yes.”