How To Like People Who Are Not Like You

The Three Step Formula

A reviewer called this book “profoundly simple and simply profound. A formula for building human beings.”

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Chasteen

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Chasteen All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America

AMITY BOOKS Box 442 Liberty, Missouri 64069

A Dedication
What our lives can become depends in large part upon the people we find to pattern ourselves after. I found Gordon Clinard when I was still a boy. He was pastor of the church my family attended. By word and example he taught me that I could love all people. In dress, manner and speech, he was simple and direct: the most elegant man I ever met. His ambition was not to be rich or powerful or well known. It was to be useful. I found Gordon Kingsley when I was in my early thirties. For more than 20 years we were colleagues, fellow teachers at the same college. Gordon showed me that it is possible for one person to shape events and institutions. Had I not known him, I would never have understood that grace, wit, charm, imagination, eloquence, energy and an unflagging commitment to intellectual and spiritual growth can come together in a single person. To both of these men named Gordon, this book is dedicated. I might without them have come to believe and practice what this book is about. So powerful has been their influence upon me, however, that I’m forced to believe I would have not.


Please turn to page 127 before you begin to read this book.


Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .i Attention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ii The Book in Brief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii Chapter 1 Why Bother? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Chapter 2 Learn to Like Yourself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Believe these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 My Life Has Meaning And Purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 I am unique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 I’m as good as anyone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 What other people think of me is less important than what I think . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 My self worth is based on who I am, not what I can do . . .12 What I want Is less important than what is good for me . . .13 Owning things only seems to make me more attractive . . . .13 Think about these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 How lucky I am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 My strengths and abilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Other people’s problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Finding peace of mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Making the most of today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Something beautiful . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 My death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Do These Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Read good books . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 iii

Develop a skill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Talk to other people, and listen to what they say . . . . . . . . .22 Achieve the proper pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Take part in projects designed to help other people . . . . . . .24 Exercise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 Travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 Chapter 3 Step Two—Learning to Like People Who Are Like You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 Believe these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 I am a part of my people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 I am as valuable to my people as my people are to me . . . .27 My people’s motivations are as proper as my personal motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 I will get from my people as I give to my people . . . . . . . .28 I will find myself through knowing my people . . . . . . . . . .28 My people know me as imperfectly as I know my people . .29 My people will be increasingly important to me as I grow older . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 Think about these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Finding ways to know your people better . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Why your people do what they do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Supporting your people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Who are your people? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 How are you and your people alike? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 How are you and your people different? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 Who tells you how to relate to your people? . . . . . . . . . . . .34 Do these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35 Join them . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35 Volunteer for extra duty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35 Learn the history and values of your people . . . . . . . . . . . .35 Talk it up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 iv

Go to bat for your people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 Becoming a loving critic of your people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Share your people’s fate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Chapter 4 Step Three—Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Believe these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 Their ways make as much sense as mine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 But for accident of birth, I could be one of them . . . . . . . . .41 Who’s right? is the wrong question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 I may never agree with them, but I can relate to them . . . . .43 They are as attached to their way as I am to mine . . . . . . . .43 The world would be a poorer place if they did not exist . . .44 Only by understanding Them do I come to understand myself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 Think about these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 What are the really basic differences between us? . . . . . . . .49 How and when did our differences start? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 How am I like them? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 Are they as uncertain about how to relate to me? . . . . . . . .55 What is really happening in my encounter with Them? . . .56 How will my children and theirs relate to each other? . . . . .57 What does knowing those who are not like me tell me about myself? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Do these things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Learn another language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Visit ithnic communities; attend their place of worship . . . .63 Eat their foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 Study other cultures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 Put yourself in uncomfortable situations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68 Feel good about not trying to change Them . . . . . . . . . . . .68 Don’t pretend to understand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69 v

Chapter 5 Where To Take the Steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Your private world . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Your person . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Your family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 Your public world . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76 The religious arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77 The political arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81 The social arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83 The cultural arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .85 The world arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .89 Chapter 6 The Three Step Week . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92 Give us this day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93 Identification Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94 Suspension Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96 Affirmation Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99 Chapter 7 The Human Family Reunion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .101 The Reunion begins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103 Does the caged bird sing? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116 Class provides new life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 Let all sit down to dinner together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124 Appendix: The Three Step Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127 Part A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129 Part B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132 Interpretation of responses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134 Scoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .138 Now that you have read the book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .139 World Class Person . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .140 September 11, 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141 Written on Friday, September 14, 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141 Written September 11, 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142 vi



How To Like People Who Are Not Like You
The Three Step Formula

This book is intended for all those people who either want to or are required to move outside their ordinary circle of friends. Tourists, students, business and professional people, people of faith, and anybody with a spirit of adventure will find this book helpful and challenging. I intend to explain to readers in minute detail exactly how they first learn to like themselves, then to like people like themselves, and finally to like people who are unlike themselves. This book joins three traditions in literature: self-help, personal relations and how-to. This book is rooted in sociological, anthropological, and religious principles, but there is not a word of jargon or academese in it. I’ve used the first 10 editions of this book over the past 30 years in classrooms, from third grade through middle and high schools to college and university. In churches, synagogues and mosques. With seminars, club and business meetings. Response has been enthusiastic and constructively critical. It’s a far better book today because of the many helpful suggestions.



How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Chapter 1

Why Bother?

This chapter looks briefly at the various reasons for liking people who differ from you: religious teaching, economic need, personal enrichment. Without putting any of these down, this short chapter challenges the reader to do it to see if she/he can, and if so, what difference it makes.

Chapter 2

Step One

Learning to like yourself is the first step toward liking people who are not like you. This chapter describes the things you must believe, think about, and do in order to take that step.

Chapter 3

Step Two

Us and Them: the only two kinds of people there are. Learning to like us is not easy, but it’s far more simple than learning to like them. This chapter describes, in the same format as chapter 2, how a person learns to like people who are like him/her. This chapter also raises questions about what it is that makes people alike.

Chapter 4

Step Three

To learn to like people who are not like you is probably the biggest challenge that any of you can undertake. To do it requires that you first like yourself and those who are like you. Once that difficult task is accomplished, you are ready to attempt Step Three.

Chapter 5

Where To Take The Three Steps

This chapter describes the two worlds in which you live: your private world of me and us, and your public world of them. Step one prepares you for a richer life in your private world. Once your private world is in order, you are ready to take steps two and three in your public world. viii



Chapter 6

The Three Step Week

After learning the three steps, you will need to practice them in order to become proficient. Practice is easier if you set aside a certain time to do it. This chapter describes when to schedule your practice time and the exercises you need to do during that time.

Chapter 7

The Human Family Reunion

Many thousands of people over the last 30 years have demonstrated that it is possible to like people who are not like you. They have all participated in the Human Family Reunion. This chapter describes these reunions: how they came about, who comes to them, what is done at them and how they make everyone feel.



How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

The Three Step Test
This test helps readers determine how much they like themselves and other people. Using true-false and multiple choice questions, this test leads the reader through an assessment of personal feelings and offers the reader an objective evaluation of his or her inter-personal behavior. The reader might wish to take this test before reading the book. Doing so would identify for you those parts of the book that would be of maximum value to you. After reading the book and practicing some of its recommendations, you might want to take the test again in order to assess how far you have come.


Chapter 1
Why Bother?
Really important questions are not meant so much to be answered as pondered. Is there a God? What’s the meaning of life? Why Me? To give an answer is to reduce the vastness of these questions, to rob them of their majesty, to limit their ability to overwhelm our smugness. Why should I like people who are not like me, belongs in the company of the questions above. It’s a really important question. I could give you an answer, something like: It’ll be good for you; the Bible says so; world peace requires it. But if I did that what would you do? Chances are you would agree or disagree with my answer. And that would be the end of it. That answer would so engage your attention that you would no longer entertain the question. I wouldn’t want that to happen. Once an answer is given to a question we all begin to choose up sides, those who accept the answer on one side; those who reject it on the other. Those on both sides then spend the majority of the energy they would have given the question to the defense of their answer. In the case of this particular question, this typical response is especially inappropriate. Better that we should together and forever search for an answer than to let our attraction to those answers that quickly present themselves further divide us. What an irony if in asking why you should like people who are not like you, you create more people who are not like you. God forbid that this should happen. So let us agree as we begin our quest that it is not an answer we seek. The question is rhetorical, intended to slip our minds from neutral into drive, mak-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

ing it possible to get from where we are to a place with a better view. I’m reminded of the man who asked a Jewish friend, “Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?” The answer: “And why not?” (This story makes a point but also poses a problem. Not all Jews do answer a question with a question. It’s hard to talk about people without stereotyping them.) That’s a beautiful answer. Much better than, “That’s the way Jews are;” “That’s what we are taught;” “I didn’t know we did,” or some other similar statement. Such an answer doesn’t make the questioner think. It doesn’t lead further. It seems to me that there are only two kinds of answers: informative answers and provocative answers. My preference is for the provocative. In the long run, the provocative may also be the most informative. Why bother to like people who are not like you? Several provocative answers come to mind. Let’s begin with “Why Not?” After you think about that awhile, try this one, “What are you afraid of?” What about this one, “Can you do it?” I’m sure you can think of a whole handful of provocative answers. I encourage you to do it. But let’s move on. Informative answers also have something to contribute. Why bother to like people who are not like you? My favorite informative answer to this question is this: it’s the biggest challenge in today’s world. To be the first person to set foot in a new territory, to climb an unknown mountain, swim an unmapped river, cross an uncharted desert—the challenge of it all looms large in our minds, larger than life I’m sure because it is no longer possible. Is there a comparable challenge available today? If the physical exploration of the earth has been done, may we find equal adventure elsewhere? Yes. That very exploration makes possible a greater challenge: the challenge of getting to like all the different people with whom we share the globe. Notice what I did not say. I did not say that the challenge is getting to know all those people. The only challenge in that—siz-

Why Bother?


able to be sure—is to possess the time and money necessary. But to learn to like those people is a quantum leap beyond knowing them. If we might compare it to reading, then knowing people who are different would be the a b c’s; liking them would be your favorite novel. No other challenge comes close in difficulty. The psychic and cultural stress involved in coming to like people who are not like you is enormous. The strongest intentions are often inadequate. An endurance and hardiness equal that of the mountain climber is called for. A word of caution! People who are different are ever present today: tourists, immigrants, refugees, international students, athletes, business persons, artists, a veritable encyclopedia of mobile people. It is so easy to know, or at least to meet, people who are different that we may fail to see the challenge in getting to like them. That simply makes the challenge all the greater. But why bother? There is a lot of living to be done without getting involved with people who are different. I could give you many reasons, from something as noble and global as helping to make the world a better and safer place, to something altogether personal and private, such as creating a new you through the sense of power and potential you realize in learning to like those you once considered foreign. A few paragraphs below I do just that. But I thought long and hard before doing it, not because it’s not worth doing but because that is what you expect me to do. And because you expect it, you are prepared to ignore what I say or to rationalize in such a way that you either convince yourself you are already doing it or that it really is not the right thing to do. This is not an accusation. It is not a defect in your character that prompts this assessment of the likely reception you would give my preaching that you should like other people. It is simply that preaching activates your antenna: you begin to look for a way out, a way to accommodate the preaching without making major changes in your accustomed way of living.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

For years I failed to appreciate what I thought was a simplistic answer given by mountaineers. “Why do you climb?” was the question. The answer? “Because it’s there.

Life is really very simple. Complexity is laid on from the outside, attributed to a thing by an observer insufficiently informed. Complexity is ugly! It is inefficient. Whether of God or some natural process, there is about all life a web of such fundamental simplicity that our minds are overwhelmed. There must be more to it than that, we insist. We dismiss the simple-minded as unsophisticated. How Backward! Simplicity is sophistication raised to its highest power. We see complexity in a thing only because we imperfectly understand that thing. As I write these words, I am sitting nine abreast in the bowels of the biggest airplane I’ve ever been on. I’ve just left Disney World, where birds talk, mechanical people converse with those conceived in more conventional modes, ghosts float through the air, appearing and disappearing before my eyes, and everybody pays homage to a mouse. It boggles my mind. “I don’t know how they do that,” I say to my 18 year old son whose high school graduation we have come here to celebrate. But to the engineers who design all these things, they are childishly simple. And to the children there is more simplicity here than in the newspaper accounts of an equipment failure at a nuclear plant, the latest presidential primary or the starving millions in India. These same children today at Disney World, accepting at face value a five-foot mouse marching down the street and a talking statue of Abe Lincoln will, 20 years hence, have become the bewildered adults their parents are now. Their world will have acquired a complexity that baffles their mind and frustrates their purposes. How tragic! How unnecessary! Since we all manufacture our own complexity, all we have to do is to quit that business and take up another. I suggest simplicity as a better business.

Why Bother?


Simplicity suffers an image problem. The infant’s innocence, the hayseed’s ignorance, the politician’s slogan—all come to mind. And all miss the mark. When I think of simplicity I think of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (though I don’t understand it), of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, of Copernicus’ Theory of a Sun Centered Solar System. I think of these theories because they simplify my world, help me make sense (at least more than I otherwise could) of that vast array of mind-boggling “facts” that assault my mind. I think of music and mathematics, with their harmony and precision, their clarity of meaning and expression, their aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual appeal. This is simplicity: The human mind uncluttered, freed to focus on the fundamental concerns of human existence. The Big Bang some say gave birth to this world of ours. A catastrophic event so remote in time and so overwhelming in size that we fool ourselves when we think we can understand it: the Big Bang, the origin of our Earth. More crucial than understanding that first Big Bang is preventing the second. The Soviet Union and the United States not so long ago had thousands of nuclear war heads pointed at each other. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, various rogue governments and freelance terrorists are buying and stealing these monstrous weapons so they can work their mischief. Nuclearworld stands a colossus, dwarfing our humanity, diminishing our chance of survival. Nuclearworld holds the whole earth hostage. This, however, is not the tragedy. The tragedy is that we have accepted the situation, as six-year-olds at Disney World accepts theirs. We live in Nuclearworld, and we don’t even know it’s an aberration, a cancer of the human spirit. That it could be otherwise is a notion we dismiss as naive, and blinded by our vision of what we call reality, we blunder ever closer to oblivion. Of the world’s billions, not many are rich. But those who are, are visibly so. The poor grow ever less content; the rich, ever more protective.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

The number of people in the world who cannot read and write increases every year. At the same time, those nations with near universal literacy squander their reading and writing on endless accounts of sex and violence, the careful keeping and wide dissemination of trivia (most points scored by a left-handed forward while triple-teamed in the fourth quarter of a ho-hum game), the huckster’s audacious claims. A marvelous ability for a pedestrian purpose. Racism and religious intolerance encircle the globe, with novel forms and new methods of carrying out their madness daily perfected. And no end in sight. These are only some of the less attractive items found in the World’s Catalogue of Current Conditions. If we are to move toward a better, safer, more just world, we first must recognize that even though the problems facing us are formidable they only seem to be complex. To solve these, and other problems, only three things are required of us. If we do them, we can create a perfect world. It may not be a world in which perfection has become a condition, a continual state in which we daily live; but it most certainly will be a world in which perfection has become a process, a perpetual movement toward internal, interpersonal and international harmony. The world may never be perfect, but it can move toward perfection. It can move so far in fact, that compared to where we are at present, perfection may seem to have been achieved. The world that you make perfect by taking the three steps described in this book is that world that lies between your ears, behind your eyes, beneath your skull and above your chin. It’s the world in your head. The only world there is. To picture the world thus is not to dismiss the unbearably cruel, unfair and intractable problems in the world. Neither is it to overlook the awesome beauty and unmerited goodness that can buoy any life amid life’s tempest seas. It is, rather, a recognition that your world is what you experience it to be. It is not so much what is out there in the world that matters: It

Why Bother?


is what parts of it that have gotten into your head, and how they got there. Your view of the world is as unique as your personality and your cellular construction. Come take the steps that promise to perfect your own private world. For it is out of that private world that you make all decisions that direct your public self. The three steps? 1. Learn to like yourself. 2. Learn to like those who are like yourself. 3. Learn to like those who are not like yourself. To do each of these three things requires three things: that you (1) believe certain things, (2) think about certain things, and (3) do certain things.

Chapter 2 Step One
Learn to Like Yourself
Self-hatred is the root cause of all problems between people. Persons with even a near adequate estimate of their own value are not those continually quarrelsome, belligerent, unpleasant individuals who keep communities all over this earth in perpetual turmoil. The overly aggressive salesman who browbeats a customer into buying something he doesn’t want and the timid little man who won’t stand up for his rights have something in common: Neither of them likes himself very much. The salesman smothers his inferiority complex by coming on like gangbusters. He keeps everybody—including himself—at arm’s length. He’s an erupting volcano, set off by the cauldron of self-doubts and fears that seethe within. The timid little man is emasculated by dislike of himself. He is a blotter, absorbing all the hurt and harm directed at him, afraid not to agree with whatever is said.

BELIEVE THESE THINGS My Life Has Meaning And Purpose
To believe that my life has meaning and purpose is to believe that no matter how easy or hard my life has so far been, it has provided me with resources for living. These resources are the insights, skills, talents and character that I have been developing as a result of the life I have lived. To believe my life has purpose is to believe that the future is not yet determined and that I have the power to affect it immensely. This doesn’t mean that I can do absolutely anything imaginable. I still must work with a variety of immediate limitations beyond my control. It means that whatever

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


the limitations are, within them I have great powers of choice regarding the nature and character of my life and actions. Furthermore, it is possible that I could have considerable influence over the expanse of my future limitations. Using my current resources of skills and character wisely and courageously has the potential of expanding my own personal future. These are issues of meaning and hope. It is humanly impossible to live without meaning and hope. Even the most discouraged and despairing people have some glimmer of hope in their hearts, or they wouldn’t be discouraged. And they have some hope, however vague, that things will get better. Part of learning to like oneself includes recognizing that we decide whether our lives have meaning, and that we have the power, even in the darkest of times, to live with hope. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” is a teaching long practiced by people of faith the world over. Let us consider three people who found meaning and purpose in the midst of holocaust. Two of these people I have had the privilege to know personally; the other, I know through his writings. All inspire me. Ben Edelbaum promised his father he would live to tell their story. Ben was 12 years old at the time. He and his father had been two years in the death camps, since Hitler and the Nazis captured Warsaw. His father was dying. Three more years young Ben would spend in the camps before liberation. Ben came to America. Took a job in a grocery store. Learned English. And wrote, Growing Up In The Holocaust. On a Tuesday in October for years, Ben would come on his day off to my college class and tell his story to my students. Five years in hell he had spent, the only member of his family to survive. To tell their story, to insure they not be forgotten, to remember and to help the world remember—these things gave purpose to Ben’s life. As a teenager. Bronia Roslowowski jumped naked into the snow from the back of a truck on its way to the ovens. She survived savage beatings. Liberated, she came to Kansas City. As owner of the M&M Bakery at 31st and Woodland for 25 years, she became a liv-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

ing legend and a moving force in the lives of countless people who needed a helping hand or an abrupt encounter with her steel will. My students would sit mesmerized at her feet as she told her story. When they would ask if she hated anyone, Bronia would say no. “Why not?” My students would ask. “Because hate kills you first,” Bronia would respond. Victor Frankl was a young medical doctor when taken by the Nazis and put in the death camps. Frankl emerged from the Holocaust to write, Man’s Search For Meaning. From living through unspeakable horrors, Frankl forged his conviction that each of us is in this world to make it have meaning. Doing so is not easy. For those treated cruelly by life, it is almost impossible, but Frankl came to believe that only by finding meaning in tragedy is it possible to get on with life. If Ben and Bronia and Victor could find purpose amid the chaos of life, then we can, too. Let us be about the task.

I Am Unique
I am unique, one of a kind, tailor-made in a mail-order world. I’m not a photocopy. I’m an original. I bring to life something nobody else has or can. In a world of some six billion there is no one else just like me. Without me the world would be significantly different. Believe it! In an off-the-rack world, I am custom-made, cut to specifications, made from the finest material. No bargain barn markdowns for me. I am quality goods, destined never to be on sale. Whatever I look like, no matter what my age, sex or race, despite any handicaps I may have, I am me. And nobody else can take my place. Nobody can do what I do, the way I do it. Nobody sees life from just my perspective. I do the best job of being me that anyone possibly could. Of course I will have trouble believing this about myself. Everyone does. To think I will believe it after only a few days’ practice is like believing that I can run a marathon after jogging for a week. Really believing that I am unique requires long and exhaust-

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


ing practice. But it’s the kind of practice that will best prepare me for that long race called life.

I’m As Good As Anyone
I’m as good as anyone—I must believe this if I am to like myself. Those who have been lauded and loved may get to feeling that they are better than other people; those who have been hounded and harassed may feel hopelessly inferior. No matter what the treatment accorded to me by others, however, I must make myself believe that I am just as good as anyone— a single human being, no better, no worse than any other person. If I can believe this, I will like myself; unless I believe this, I will never like myself. It will not be easy to convince myself that I am just as good as anyone else. To actually do this I will have to recognize all human beings as equal in value. Simply because they are human beings, all are equal in worth: an Indian untouchable, a gay person, an American senator, a militant, a medical doctor, a prostitute, a traitor, a martyr, a next door neighbor, a world leader, an enemy, a friend. All are as good as—and no better than—I am; for all are human. All possess humanity: All deserve humane treatment. It is good to be human and alive. It is good to share these two awesome characteristics. Those who can share equally with others in this goodness are the most fortunate of all. I share in that goodness because I am human and I am alive. Think for a moment what it would mean if either of these two things were taken from me. I might even be willing to accept human life as someone else rather than surrender it. I am just as good as anyone else. Please believe that. Nothing else will go so far in helping me to like myself.

What Other People Think Of Me Is Less Important Than What I Think
Once you like yourself, it will not be hard to make yourself believe that “what other people think about me is less important


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

than what I think of myself.” You must make yourself believe this, not only because it’s true but because it will revolutionize your life. “The buck stops here,” Harry Truman used to say. This bluntly eloquent recognition of responsibility is not possible in one more concerned with public opinion than with a private assessment of self worth. How I look is more important to me than to anyone else. Other people take little notice of us, not because they are uncaring, but because they are preoccupied with their own appearance. Everyone so wants to get off on the right foot that our new shoes go unobserved, our hairdo makes little impression. When I was in the eighth grade I went to the doctor one weekend to have a mole removed from my chin. It had been there for years, and I was convinced that it was responsible for my lack of self-confidence and popularity. I expected when Monday came to be the center of admiring attention. It didn’t happen. No one mentioned my missing mole. And for the first time in my life I realized that other people paid me little attention. I had thought that mole was a constant topic of conversation among my friends, but I was the only one who ever saw it.

My Self Worth Is Based On Who I Am, Not What I Can Do
Living as we do in an acquisitive, achieving society, it’s practically impossible to think of people in terms of who they are rather than what they can do. One of the first questions usually asked a new acquaintance is “What do you do?” But self worth is based on who I am, not what I can do. I can drive, write, run, teach, live, hate, and so on. But who am I? I am a person. I am a person. I am a person. I am a person. I have the same self worth that every person has, and the same rights. I believe in my self as much as I believe in any person. It is difficult to value ourselves for who we are while we value others for what they have. But society plays a trick on us here: Society makes us think that we value people because they have

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


achieved and acquired. People are written about in the papers, talked about on radio and television because they made a million, won a battle or an election, went to the moon, hit the most home runs, brought home a gold medal. So much do we hear of such people that we come to think that the worth of all people—our self included—is so judged. I don’t think it works that way. If you asked me to list my top ten, the people that mean the most to me personally, the ones who have most directly and powerfully affected my life, none of the media-made people would get even passing consideration. I suspect that is true for all of us. These people would probably be on someone’s list but not for the reason the media were interested in them. We only think we value people for what they can do.

What I Want Is Less Important Than What Is Good For Me.
If you can believe that “What I want is less important than what’s good for me,” you will find your life different in several ways. For one thing you will become more disciplined. You’ll have to in order to figure out what is good for you. Our wants are fairly obvious to us, but our needs require some searching. Another thing you’ll find is that your life is becoming simpler. Needs are by definition fewer than wants. And cheaper. You will have to spend less time at things you don’t really want to do. Do I need this? This question can unclutter and uncomplicate your life.

Owning Things Only Seems To Make Me More Attractive
This brings us to the final thing you must believe if you are to like yourself: “Possessing things only seems to make me more attractive to other people.” People can envy you without liking you. In your own life, are the people you like those who own the most? Television would have you believe that you cannot be a good person unless you buy things: The K car, maxi-pads, Preparation H, Schlitz, Orval Reddenbacher’s Popping Corn, Leggs, Anything, Everything. Use your MasterCard, Visa, American Express,


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Traveler’s Checks. Where is the TV ad extolling the virtues of a savings account or giving things away? Those ads sell you things by promising that they will make you a better person. They can’t. They don’t. You are a person: You are alive. It is not possible to be more. Anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you a bill of goods. You’ll never hit a home run off a sales pitch. Too many curves.

People who like themselves have good luck. People who have good luck like themselves. Whichever way that statement is made to read, its truth is not diminished. The catch is that luck is good or bad depending on how you see it. in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is a poor man who would like to be rich. It doesn’t happen; his poverty is permanent. The elderly British couple in W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw wishes for 200 pounds, and offers anything in return for it. Immediately there is a knock at the door, a messenger hands them a check for exactly that amount. But Tevye is the lucky man. He glories in his village, his traditions, his family. He jokes about his poverty. The couple gets their money, but the check is compensation for the death of their only son, killed in an accident at the factory where he worked. If you want to like yourself, you’ll need to spend some time each day thinking about how lucky you are. Hunt for something to feel lucky for. Hunt hard if you have to. Luck is undeserved, no effort required. You cannot possibly think about all those good things that have happened to you through no effort or merit on you part without feeling that life is good, and you are good.

My Strengths And Abilities
Think about your strengths and abilities. Everybody has some, just like everybody has weaknesses and ineptitudes. Your

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


strengths and abilities may be obvious to everyone and easy for you to think about. Or they may be nearly invisible, poorly developed. But they are there. Think about them. Continually. Persistently. Expectantly. Think about ways to use them more and differently. Think about how to increase them. I have been a teacher for more than 30 years. I’ve taught in churches, prisons, junior high, high school, public universities, private colleges. I’ve taught in the United States and in other countries. The point I want to make is not about my experience: Many people have had more. I only want you to know the background of an observation: the best students are often not the most brilliant. Time after time I have been disappointed in students whose performance did not match their promise. More often than that, however, I’ve been amazed by students of apparently limited ability who surpassed their more endowed rivals. How did they do it? By knowing their limitations. By working twice—or ten times—as hard if necessary. By recognizing their weakness, these students transform it into a strength. Superior ability often lulls its possessor into a false sense of security and a halfhearted effort. Students—or persons—of marginal ability can use their recognition of that fact as a goad to Herculean effort.

Other People’s Problems
The world is full of problems, and we all spend time thinking about them. The majority of that time is spent thinking about our own problems. Increase the time you spend everyday thinking about the problems other people have. See if that doesn’t put a different perspective on your own problems, making them a little more manageable, a little less overwhelming. “I worried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” That’s the idea. You will still need shoes, still have to find a way to get some. But the problem is now reduced to it’s proper size. Think about helping others. You may not have much money or


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

time or whatever. So you may never have thought much about helping others. You may think you need help. You do. We all do. But needing help doesn’t excuse you from giving it. Doctors suffer the same diseases for which they treat patients. Having problems doesn’t excuse us from helping people. If you think about helping others, you will have less time to think about the help you think you need. You will also think of ways to give help that you never thought about before. I had stubbed my left toe occasionally over the past few months and dragged my foot now and then. So I went to the doctor. After all the standard tests, my doctor found no slipped disk or pinched nerve. This is what I had expected: something he could fix; something I wouldn’t have to worry about any more. No such luck. “You have multiple sclerosis,” he said. “It’s a damnable disease. You won’t be able to be active.” There’s no treatment and no cure for MS. It can cripple and kill or it can disappear for years at a time. I panicked. For months I alternated between crying, feeling sorry for myself and long talks with friends who had serious health problems. I read everything I could find: about the disease; about various therapies; about miracle cures; about learning to relax; about great people who had had serious illness After many hellish months I had satisfied my need for selfabsorption. I had to turn my attention to other people’s problems. And my joy in life began to return. Not a day goes by now that I don’t think of my illness. But such thoughts no longer dominate and depress me. In thinking about other people’s problems, I found a powerful therapy for my own. My illness has done a remarkable thing for me: It has opened my eyes to that legion of handicapped people who lived formerly outside my consciousness. Not only have I discovered their existence; I’ve developed a profound respect for their ability to face their condition with courage and boundless good humor. I would if I could rid myself of what I’ve got. I hope still to escape its usual ravages. And even if it turns out later to have been

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


an erroneous diagnosis, I will be grateful as long as I live that I was forced to face life on such stark terms.

Finding Peace Of Mind
Think about finding peace of mind. When have you felt most at peace with yourself? What was the situation, the conditions? Can you reconstruct those things? Can you isolate their essential ingredients? When have you felt the least peace of mind? Can you eliminate these conditions? Think about the people you know who seem to have peace of mind. What do they have in common? How are they different from other people who don’t have peace? Think about peace of mind. Think about it at every opportunity. Think about ways to increase the opportunities. “As a man thinketh, so is he.” A man at peace with himself is a man who likes himself. In “If ” Rudyard Kipling advises that one who can keep his wits about him when everyone else is losing theirs is indeed a man. (Kipling wrote before the ERA era). A contemporary wag says that such a person simply does not understand the situation. What makes it possible for some to react with calm to situations that in others produce panic? Whatever it is, no one of us will ever have enough of it. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” said the psalmist, “I will fear no evil.” If there ever is to be peace in a world constantly preparing for war, it can only come when peace has settled upon and within the individual human being—you and me.

Making The Most of Today
How can you make the most of today? Think about that question. Think of something you can do to make this day special for you and someone you love. Think of one thing you can do today to break the routine, relieve the tedium Make plans for achieving things today. Think about your goals for later this morning, early this afternoon, just before dinner, this


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

evening, bedtime. Spend thought time on today. That’s where you live. Do a good job today and you’ll feel good today. That’s all anybody has. Today! Tomorrow’s not here and yesterday is past. Think about today. “Live your life in day-tight compartments,” advised William Osler, the father of modern medicine. “Take no thought for tomorrow; sufficient for today are the troubles thereof,” said Jesus. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life” contributed some nameless sage of the 1970’s. Emily, in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, is allowed to return after her death to Grover’s Corner, the small town where she had lived all of her life before dying as a young woman and mother. She sees the lights come on as the town awakes. She sees the newspaper thrown at her house, the milkman deliver the milk. She smells the bacon, hears the call to breakfast. After a short time Emily turns to her companion who has brought her from the cemetery out on the hill for a last look at her beloved town and family. And she asks, “Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute?” Since I saw this play as a boy I have not been able to get Emily’s question out of my mind. More often than I can count, reflecting on that question has drawn me from busy meeting rooms to peaceful eddies where the joy of just being is overpowering—and indescribable. In that place there is a peace so sweet I can literally taste it. And the voice I hear calling on my ear, is so soft it could only be in my mind, so gentle I want to cry, so loving that I long never to leave its presence. Would that I could share this feeling with you. Few of us realize life as we live it. And the reason is as much that we don’t have the skills as that we don’t see the need. The daily installments in which life comes are treated by most of us as simply the distance we must cover to reach our destination. But in a way none of us can ever fully comprehend, each day is our destination. To make it the place we want to live, we must think hard about what we want it to be.

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


Something Beautiful
Think about something beautiful. It will make you feel beautiful. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then it’s up to the beholders to open their eyes and let it in. Once the beauty is in, it’s going to spill out all over you. The more you let in, the more it wells up inside; the sooner and more profusely it washes over you, making you feel good about yourself in ways you never thought possible. Each of us radiates outward what we have inside. Mystics and other insightful people talk about auras that surround our bodies, giving off clues to those about us as to the kind of person we are and providing cues as to their proper approach to us. Some people attract others like a magnet; others repel like a skunk. Why the difference? It doesn’t seem to be physical beauty of the person. Nor their wealth. It’s not their learning. It’s not their age or sex, race or religion. What it is, is their person. Their being. Their essence. What we call their personality. It’s almost impossible to describe a personality. We can say that it is the sum total of things that make one person different from another. That tells us something about personality in general, but nothing about any particular personality. When we say that she or he is a beautiful person, what we most likely mean to describe is how that person acts rather than looks. No matter what we look like, all of us can learn to act beautiful.

My Death
If you think about your death, it’s going to change your life. Just a little thought might drive you to despair. But long and careful thought can deepen your appreciation, can help you see the miracle that your life is. Think not of death as an enemy, as an assassin sent to take your life, but as a friend sent to release you from pain and old age, a friend whose presence reminds you that life is a flower: delicate, fragrant, impermanent—and wondrously beautiful! When “Death and Dying” was a faddish new course on cam-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

puses several years ago, my college decided to offer the class; I was asked to teach it. I had never studied the subject and wasn’t sure I could handle it. I had abandoned my plans to be a minister years earlier in large part because I went to pieces when visiting the dying and the bereaved. The faculty committee responsible for curriculum refused to authorize the new class because an older member thought Death and Dying too morbid a subject for students. I finally was able to teach the class for several years under a special number used in our department for topics not listed in the catalogue. The class never became a part of the regular curriculum. But of all the classes I’ve ever taught, “Death and Dying” is in a class by itself. In the company of six to 15 students, I have sat comfortably in a circle listening to a dying man talk about his death. Parents whose child died have poured out their feelings to us. Young people have described their suicide attempts. Widows have described for us their efforts to cope with loneliness and grief. We have talked to ministers, lawyers, insurance agents, morticians, embalmers. We have planned funerals, learned about cremation, drawn up our wills. We have cried, laughed and joked. We have grown close. It is not sex, I have discovered, but death that is the great taboo, the thing we most fear and about which we have the greatest difficulty thinking. But together with a handful of students over half-a-dozen years, I have learned to talk about death—my death, the death of my friends and family. I have learned to cry, to rejoice, to be openly and honestly human. I have learned how to hurt, and how to share the hurt of others. When I came years ago to teach at William Jewell College, I was met and welcomed by the Dean, Bruce Thomson. Bruce showed me around campus, introduced me to everyone in sight, paid rapt attention to every word I said. I left him after a couple of hours wanting to work in this place that would have a man like him. Over the years I came to appreciate his quiet strength. More than most anyone I knew, I trusted him. He seemed to have no personal ambition other than to be of service, and toward that end he

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


worked like a demon. We didn’t always agree, but we could talk about our disagreements. And we could still be friends. That first day I met him Bruce had said that he and his wife wanted to have my wife and me over for dinner. But we would have to wait until they finished painting their house. One of the saddest days of my life came when I heard that Bruce had cancer. I knew when I heard he was sick that I had to go see him. On a beautiful fall Sunday I drove to the nearby town where he was hospitalized. I had gone before when other friends were sick. We had talked about the weather. Never about illness or death. I couldn’t do that with Bruce. It took all the courage I could muster, but after I had exchanged pleasantries with his wife and daughter and son-in-law, I asked if they would leave the room so Bruce and I could talk. I took his hand. “Bruce, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say. If I had just been told I had cancer, I would be scared out of my mind. So I’m, here to listen to anything you want to tell me.” Bruce began to cry. He talked for a while about fear and death and hope. I left the hospital knowing that my life had been changed. I had stepped across that moat that separated me from real contact with another human being. Over the next three years, Bruce was in and out of hospitals. I visited him at every opportunity. At first we both thought he was getting well. Then, we knew he was not. Finally he was confined to his bed at home, and at last I was a guest in his house. Each time we talked, we talked of death. Not solely, but we never avoided it. We talked about the college, our families, sports, books we were reading, and dying. It was not a depressing conversation. Ever! Now that Bruce has died, I think of those talks. I miss him terribly, more I think because he was the only one I could talk to like that. But I’m finding others.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

To learn to like yourself, you must fill yourself with good things. Reading good books will do this for you. The wisdom, compassion, and courage of all time are at your fingertips. Make the reading of good books as natural to you as breathing. Read as you would indulge yourself in good food. Cultivate your relationship to those books as to your favorite people. Let those books flood your mind and they will buoy your soul. Let them expand your notions of self and they will enlarge your vision of your potential. Accept the challenge of those books to let yourself be.

Develop A Skill
Learn to do something with your hands: paint, draw, build, play, type, write—it doesn’t matter. Hands that know a skill belong to a more disciplined mind. To see a thing that you have made with your hands is to know the joy of creation. And in being a creator, you become a new creature—more aware, more confident, more secure.

Talk To Other People, And Listen To What They Say
Talk to other people. Tell them how your feel, what you think, how you want to live your life, why you behave as you do. Trivia is not talk: “How are you?” “Sure is hot, isn’t it?” “Dallas is gonna win the Super Bowl.” These things are a substitute for talk, camouflage to keep us from knowing that we have nothing to do with one another, do not know each other. Talk openly and honestly to other people. If you do, you’ll become that kind of person. You can’t help but like yourself once that happens. If you’re going to talk to other people, you have to listen to what they say. You can’t write off what they say as a rest period between your monologues. You can’t use their time to plan what you want to say next.

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


Give your conversational partner the same consideration you expect. If you don’t, you’ll feel cheated, and you’ll never know why. But it will be because of your unconscious awareness that your partner is not listening to you either. People who really listen have a way of communicating that fact. The way they hold their head, eye contact, facial expression, body language. These unspoken messages tell all talkers how meaningful a conversation really is. If you can become a good listener, you will find that people talk with you about things that really matter, and treat you as if you really matter. For you do. You’re the only one who listens to them. And there’s nothing any of us want more.

Achieve The Proper Pressure
Would that life were like a tire, the proper pressure emblazoned on your side. It would be nice to pull into life’s filling stations knowing exactly the amount of extra pressure you needed. Life without pressure is flat: Too much pressure and life explodes. Find just the right pressure and you move through life with ease; too much or too little and you bump uncomfortably along, worrying all the time if you’ll make it. You live under pressure. All lives have some tension. If you did not feel some dissatisfaction, you would do nothing to change. There would be no reason to get an education, a job, anything. But most of you live under more pressure than is healthy. Fads and fashions rob you of your money because you feel pressured to dress like everyone else. Perhaps you vote as you do or attend a certain church because of pressure from your employer or your community. It may even be that you feel more pressure than there actually is. You may think your friends want you to do or think certain things when in fact they would accept something else from you. You may be a victim of what you think other people think. It may not be what they think at all. Whatever your friends think, though, you are you. You are not


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

a blotter or a reflector. You are an individual. Find out what your way is. Though you live with other people, you are not those people. You will like yourself better when you discover that there is life beyond the peer group, life that is good and beautiful—for you and for the group.

Take Part In Projects Designed To Help Other People
Do-gooder is a name that’s fallen on bad times. It’s used by most as a pejorative description of a simple-minded, well-intended bungler. Don’t let that turn you off. There is a lot of good that needs doing. The doing of it will not only help others, it will, as no other single thing I know, lead you to like yourself. This will happen because of what you are doing and who you are doing it with. When you’re helping other people you feel needed. Feeling needed does marvelous things for you. It’s a natural and sustained high. It’s life in another dimension—beyond self, expanding self, ennobling self. When you take part in projects to help other people you will find yourself working with the most compassionate and best-organized people in your community. To be in their company, to hear them talk, to see them work can inspire you, can lead you to new heights in your own life.

The body you live in is the carrying case for yourself. It’s all of you that other people actually see. The care you take of your body will have a great deal to do with how well you like yourself. Certain dimensions of the body have been given to you by your heredity. You may be by nature slender or heavy, tall or short, light or dark. Whatever you are given, you modify. Exercise and take care of your body. It will do wonders for your mental health. To be physically able is one of the greatest treasures of life, a treasure that can be easily squandered.

Step One - Learn to Like Yourself


To have returned from the mountain is not the same as never having been there. Those who have traveled see things in another perspective; home and self are never again the same. To have been there, to have seen it, to tell others what it was like—to do these things is to love life and your involvement in it. Travel will expand your horizons. You will for the first time begin to understand the many assumptions that you have been taught as truths. By itself travel cannot bring you to like yourself anymore than owning a race car will cause you to win the Indianapolis 500. But you cannot win the Indy without a car, and I don’t think you can like yourself unless you travel. The distance you travel is not critical: around the world, across the country, the other side of town—all can be equally helpful. Travel, any travel, gives you a comparative perspective that you never otherwise have. Now you are ready to begin your relationship with others. A relationship of an aware self.

STEP TWO Learning To Like People Who Are Like You
I encourage you to feel a little afraid as you get ready to take this step. That small fear can serve you well. You wouldn’t be afraid if your mind wasn’t working to solve the problems you will face. That fear is also a sign that you are gearing up emotionally for the coming ordeal. Your fear is telling you that you have not underestimated the difficulties that lie ahead. But that fear is also energizing you. As pain drives us to a doctor, making wellness possible, so this fear we all feel in stepping beyond self energizes our search for significant others and leads us eventually into community with others. Community is something none of us can live without. As spiders weave webs that serve as boundaries and roadways, so persons form bonds with other persons. In an intricate and delicate maze of relationships, we fix our self as the hub about which circles of varying size and intensity revolve. Not to attempt Step Two is to short circuit this marvelous, joyous and painful process before it has a chance to work its magic on us, the magic by which we discover how to live in community. In this chapter we examine those things you must believe, think about and do in order to like people who are like you.

If you are to like those who are like you, you must believe that you are part of them. You are linked to others only by self-definition. You can choose to define yourself as outside the group, and you will be outside as surely as if you had been banished to a deserted island.

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


But you are a part of other people. You must believe this if you are ever to weave that web of relationships with you as the pivot, the hub without which the whole thing would have to realign itself. “They are my people,” you must say to yourself. “My people.” Believing this confers on you a possession more precious than diamonds. If these are your people, you need never be overcome by loneliness. You will always know that you are worthy of their time and attention.

I Am As Valuable To My People As My People Are To Me
“I am as valuable to them as they are to me.” Make yourself believe this. If you can first believe that “They are my people” and “I am a part of them,” this belief in equal value will not be difficult. The belief in equal value will not serve you well unless you believe your people are valuable to you. If they are worthless to you, you will believe that you are worthless to them. This is equality, but a negative and destructive equality that can produce in you only self-depreciation and hatred. Of course, you can never really know how your people assess you. They will give you some pretty obvious clues by what they say and do to you. But actions are prompted by a variety of motives, and you can never be certain what your people think. You may assume, however, that they think of you just about what you think of them. Whether true or not you’ll never know, but this can be the most self energizing assumption you ever make. Nothing can turn you on like the realization that you are plugged into a highly charged network of positive relationships.

My People’s Motivations Are As Proper As My Personal Motivation
If you are ever to relate to your own people, with even the smallest hope for mutual understanding and respect, you cannot believe otherwise. You will certainly discover on occasion that particular individuals do operate from motives more base than yours. About these individuals, then, it would not be smart of you to con-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

tinue your belief. Neither would it be smart of you to conclude that others of your people are untrustworthy. You would have extended an individual characteristic to include those you have no reason to believe it fits. You would not want this done to you. If your banker neighbor goes to jail for embezzling, you don’t want the community to brand you a thief. You must retain your belief in the proper motivations of your people. If you lose your grip on this belief, you will be immobilized. No longer can you move expectantly among your people—entering agreements, arguing issues, feeling a part of them, and at ease. You will never really know what motivates any of your people: It is hard enough to know what motivates your person. All you can hope for—and that is more than sufficient—is to be as lenient and as sympathetic in passing judgment on the motives of your people as you are in judging the motives of your person.

I Will Get From My People As I Give To My People
You can believe that you will get as you give. This is a fundamental and unalterable law of human interaction. From the perspective of some impartial observer, it might seem that you and your neighbor have equally bad and good things happen to you. That is an irrelevant fact. It is your definition of the situation that determines your outlook and response. The outward circumstances of your life are meaningful only after they have passed through your inward filter, that mind-set of yours that screens the unacceptable. The tragic, the comic, the heroic, the absurd—any of these, and untold others, may flow from the outward circumstances of your life. If you can believe that you will get as you give, you will come to like yourself as naturally as moths are attracted to light in the night.

I Will find Myself Through Knowing My People
“Know thyself ” has been an injunction of philosophers and religious leaders since human history began. But how?

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


Through other people. There is no other way. You will never know yourself until you see yourself reflected in the lives of other people: a glimpse here and there; a distortion recognized through a later observation; a sudden seeing of self in another setting. I was walking down the empty corridor of our local hospital. I was 16 at the time, and I no longer remember my reason for visiting the hospital. It was not a place I liked to be. As I passed a closed door on my right, I heard voices from the room. “Who’s that in the hall?” asked a voice I did not recognize. “Sounds like Jerry Chasteen,” said another unfamiliar voice. Jerry is my brother, 19 months younger and completely different. Or so I thought. But someone who could not see me had spotted some similarity. It had to be the way I walked. Never in my life would I have recognized that characteristic I shared with my brother. Except for the voice in the night, I would have never known. When my two sons were around 20 years old, they would answer the phone and callers would think it was me. I never taught them how to talk, but they have picked up my tone, my cadence, and some of my vocabulary. I did not recognize this until told by some of my friends who had called. The Looking-Glass-Self: That’s the phrase pioneer sociologist Charles Horton Cooley used in describing the method all human beings employ in finding out who they are. The other people in your life are the mirrors you use in passing judgment on yourself. The better you know the people, the more they mean to you, the more attention you pay to the reflection you see in their eyes.

My People Know Me As Imperfectly As I Know My People
Of course you can never really know how your friends see you, nor can they know how you see them. It’s a relationship of assumptions and interpretations. It’s a perpetual, though usually unconscious, question of “What would I mean if I did that?” Since you are to some extent unlike your friends, unique in composition and experience, your precise meaning in doing a thing


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

will be different. To precisely that extent, you are as unable to interpret your friend as your friend is to interpret you. The effect of these miscalculations is lessened by repeated contacts, contacts that allow some of the ambiguity, uncertainty and imprecision to be eliminated. A carpenter must plum a line from several directions to get it true. What looks straight and level from one perspective is often out of line when looked at differently. To believe that your friends know you as imperfectly as you know them is an accurate appraisal of your mutual human condition, an appraisal that may keep you from impugning or incorrectly interpreting your friends or yourself.

My People Will Be Increasingly Important To Me As I Grow Older
Increasing age brings with it the opportunity to experience long relationships. Youth may experience intensity, but longevity is a possession which only age can bestow. And only long relationships have built into them a dimension that acquires increasing importance as the years pass. To reminisce, to swap remembrance of common events, to have survived the same hardships, to share the same prejudices— these endow existence with a quality that makes it life. To believe that these people will be increasingly important to you as you grow older makes it possible, even desirable, to hang in there, to stay with them when things are not going well. To do so will give your life a meaning not otherwise possible. In no other way I know is it possible to get the home field advantage, and no other possession you acquire will have so direct and powerful an effect upon your winning and losing the game of life. The Minnesota Twins have won two World Series in recent years, the only two in which they have played, and the manner in which they won drives home the point I have been struggling to make about the importance of home. The Twins have won all eight Series games they played at home. They have lost all six Series games they have played on the road.

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS Finding Ways to Know Your People Better
Think about finding ways to know your people better. Would you like for your friends to invite you to a party? If so, think about giving your own party and inviting them. Do you have a casual acquaintance you would like to know better? Think of ways to do it. Have you had a misunderstanding with a friend? How do you go about rectifying the situation? You understand when you take a job, a college course or some volunteer assignment that you are going to have to think about how it should be done. It is not quite so obvious to you that you are also going to have to think about getting yourself better related to your people. You need that relationship, but it is not automatic. It will not simply happen anymore than your job will do itself. You must be creative. You can know your people better. There are all kinds of ways to do it. But you must think about it. Think hard.

Why Your People Do What They Do
Why do the people who are like you do the things they do? Do you ever wonder about this? Maybe not. Chances are, though, that you often wonder why the people who are not like you do the things they do. The behavior of people like you may never be questioned. It’s too close and too familiar, and to question it would be much like questioning yourself. It is precisely because it is so close and so familiar that you need to know why it is done. It’s going to be practically impossible to really get to know your people until you have done some hard thinking about the motivations of their behavior. Thinking about the behavior of people who are like you will reveal much of yourself to you. You will develop a new understanding of your people and your place among them.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Supporting Your People
Loyalty is expected from you by your people. You will need to think about how you intend to satisfy this requirement. Think about supporting your people. Does this mean you always have to agree? That you have to volunteer for everything that comes along? That you never deviate? No, it does not. But unless you think seriously about the various ways in which loyalty may be expressed, you may conclude that these things are required. These are the shallow minded definitions of loyalty. They, like the flatness of the earth, seem so obvious. The obvious, however, serves more often to mask truth than to reveal it. If the truth were so easily discovered, it could set no one free. It would not have the power. Your task, if you are to be of real service to your people and retain the integrity you deserve as a person, is to find ways to support your people that leave both you and them stronger and more satisfied than would otherwise be possible.

Who Are Your People?
Who are these people who are like you? At some point in your relationship, you need to think about that question. Are they like you because they live next door to you or went to school with you? Is it because you have the same parents or married into the same family? Many of the people who are like you, are like you in just these ways. And there is not a thing wrong with that. “Consciousness of kind,” this was called by Franklin Giddings, an early 20th century sociologist. For the most part, however, this is not the stuff that binds people together. To share race or nationality or even religion does not under usual circumstances create a very strong bond. Neither does living next door necessarily do it. Nor going to school together. Nor marrying into the same family. If these things seem to create a bond, to make people alike, it is only because more intimate relationships have been built upon these basic similarities.

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


To whom do you go when you hurt? With whom would you share a secret? Do you feel more comfortable around some of your people than others? Then who are those who are like you? What makes some of them more like you than others?

How Are You And Your People Alike?
How are you alike? Do you like the same foods, same books, same movies? Do you spend your leisure time together? Do you work for the same causes, have the same biases, love and hate the same things? Take a little time and think. Just how are you like your best friends?

How Are You And Your People Different?
How are you different? You’re not a clone. You are tailor made in a mail order world. Or so you need to think. To do so, though, you need to figure out how you are different from those who are basically like you. It takes little thought and pays lesser dividends to concern yourself with the differences between you and those who are not like you, those you define as they. To know who you are and what makes you different you need to concentrate on those finer distinctions that set you apart from those you define as we. Those people known to the world as Eskimos are among themselves called “Inuit”, a word that means simply “the people”. Before they came into contact with people who were different from them, the Inuit had no reason to believe that they were distinctive. They were people, and though individual differences existed among them, they were not powerful enough to produce distinctive groups. By the same token, it is unlikely that an American today would ever be identified as black if all Americans were of that color. It is the existence of whiteness that draws attention to blackness, and vice versa.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Who Tells You How To Relate To Your People?
Of course you don’t make up your mind about anything entirely by yourself. No one does. Or can. In sometimes subtle and unrecognizable ways, your significant others tug at you, pulling you into line with their view of the world. When subtlety is insufficient, those whose opinions you prize can wield a big stick. Most of you live in neighborhoods made up of people pretty much like you. There’s not much variety in terms of income, education, color, religion, politics, customs or values. So naturally you acquire the notion that the way your neighborhood lives is the way the world ought to be. How could you believe anything else? The character of your community has become your personal character. There is nothing wrong with that: It’s the way the whole world operates. It’s not going to change, and it’s no reason to feel guilty. But it is something to think about. Knowing that you acquire the prejudices and biases of your people leaves you no choice but to think: Are you to accept them, reject them, modify them? Do you try to change your neighbors? Do you pretend to agree? Do you confront your neighbors and risk your membership? These are your people. How will you relate to them once you have discovered that their way of viewing the world is not the only way? They will not take kindly to the questions you raise. They will not wait patiently for you to overcome any reluctance you might feel in accepting their views. If necessary, your people will bring in the big artillery: Your status as a student, employee, leader, friend, will be threatened. Attractive promises will be made to you “if you give up these weird ideas.” You will need to think about who it is that tells you how to relate to your people, and how they tell you. And if you want to heed their advice.

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


Assume some responsibility for the things your people do. You cannot be a part of them until you get involved. Standing on the sidelines you can only be a spectator; that at times may be enough, and in some capacities you may never be more than an observer. Over the long haul that will not do the trick. Your people expect you to participate with them in those things that you can do. They have a right to expect you to join them. Being one of them is not an honorary position. It’s a job. If you choose not to do it, you will sooner or later find yourself an outsider. Joining with your people in a project which all of you believe to be worthwhile will do wonders for your morale and self image. Your people will reward your diligent effort with praise and selection for greater responsibility.

Volunteer For Extra Duty
If you not only join them, but volunteer for extra duty, your people will respond so positively that your self image will zoom to new heights. And as your self image improves, you will find yourself eager for further volunteering. It’s an upward spiral that leaves you and your people equally improved.

Learn The History And Values Of Your People
You will discover your heritage by doing so. You will acquire a perspective that will enable you to more rationally decide just what people it is that you want to be a part of. Until you know the history and values of your people, your membership is somewhat accidental and cannot have the depth of meaning that it needs. You may discover that you would fit better with another people. This is somewhat unusual, but it can happen. When it does, it should be accepted by you and your people as a growth process that serves your mutual interest.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Talk It Up
If this occurs, talk it up. Become a booster for your people. Spread their reputation abroad. Tell everyone how good your people are and how proud you are to be a part of them. The more you talk it up, the better your people will look to you, the more you will value your membership, and the higher will be your estimate of your own worth. It’s a giddy experience, a natural high from which you may never descend.

Go To Bat For Your People
The mighty Casey struck out and there is no joy in Mudville. But there is! The joy of effort in league with friends transcends the result of that effort. Far better that Casey struck out than that he never went to bat. Risk something for your people. Take a position on their behalf and defend it as best you can. You may strike out, but you will have become a member of the team by trying. You need to be a member of that team. And the team needs you. There may never come a time when you stand in the breech defending your people against some mortal enemy. That we often see life in such stark terms is Hollywood’s legacy to us, the John Wayne syndrome to which we all now and then succumb. Real life is much more mundane. It’s one day after another, each predictable, broken only occasionally by the unexpected and the threatening. Their very predictability and routine are the things that make your people so immensely valuable to you. Among no other people will you ever find these life sustaining qualities in such abundance and so freely given. You are at home here in ways you can never fully understand. That understanding will come faster and more fully, however, if you willingly assume some of the repetitive responsibilities on which the continuing welfare of your people depends.

Step Two - Learning To Like People Who Are Like You


Becoming A Loving Critic Of Your People
None of your people are perfect; you know this, but you may be tempted to let others point out their faults. Resist this temptation. It’s a dangerous thing to do. And for two reasons. First, those who point out imperfections are not usually members of the group. They are members elsewhere. Their motives in criticizing your people are suspect, and your people are not likely to listen. Secondly, the intended result of criticism from outside will not ordinarily be to strengthen your people. Their destruction may be the goal, or perhaps only ridicule. Neither is intended to benefit your people. But criticism from inside—from you—is another story. As a participating member of your people, your criticism receives a more sympathetic audience and is more likely to produce reform. Whether it has that result or not, your people are entitled to your loving criticism. They likely will never ask you for it. They may not even want it. But they need it. It is the only source of correction they have any chance of accepting. Your immediate popularity with your people may plummet once you offer your criticism. This is the price you must pay if you are to move your people, and if you’re are ever to be moved by them.

Share Your People’s Fate
Having done all this, having invested so heavily in your people, you must share their fate. They may not move as far or as fast as you would like; they may never become completely as you wish them to be. But don’t bail out. Don’t give up your vision of what they—and you—could be. The chances are at least even that you would be no happier with another people. For better or worse, you are stuck with each other. Make the best of it. Stick to the end, the bitter end if necessary. If your people know that your commitment to them is total, they will grant to you a freedom of expression and opinion not granted to the less committed. Your people will accept your criti-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

cism, knowing that you include yourself, understanding that you intend no profit from their shortcomings. No feeling experienced by humans on this earth is so deeply and forever satisfying as the feeling of belonging. No other human relationship is so desperately sought. Nothing can ever surpass the contentment and satisfaction which belonging brings to you and to your people. But belonging does not come cheap. To get it from your people, you will have to make them know that you will always be there, that nothing will make you surrender your membership. You will never understand the importance of this until you have done it. Until you are a member of your people in such standing, you cannot imagine the liberating power of total belonging. It is a deep and mine-free harbor in which you put down permanent anchor, a certain and secure home for your mind, heart, and soul. It is life on a higher plane, above the turbulence that engulfs those of lesser commitments. It is the beginning of Step Three.

Chapter 4
STEP THREE Learning To Like People Who Are Not Like You
If you are ready to take Step Three, it is because you have already taken Steps One and Two. If you have not, there is no way that you can accomplish Step Three. Even those who have taken the first two steps will find this last one difficult. You might pause here to ask yourself if you really have taken the first two steps. It isn’t like riding a bicycle, where there is some visible sign of accomplishment. These are internal steps, the taking of which observers might assume from your behavior but which really have no clear-cut relationship to any specific behavior. What we are talking about is a mind-set, a way of looking at self that constructively modifies relationships to others. The only one who can ever really know if you have taken the first two steps is you. If you are able to take Step Three, it guarantees that you have taken the first two. If you find Step Three impossible, then the first two more than likely have not occurred. If you want to get to like those who are not like you, concentrate on Steps One and Two. No amount of contact with those who are not like you can possibly lead you to liking them until you first like yourself and then like those who are like you. There is a sequence here as regular as the seasons. You cannot jump from first to third any more than you can go directly from winter to fall. Taking these three steps in sequence will develop your tolerance. Just as you could not plunge into a tub of hot water without injury, you cannot survive psychologically if suddenly cast among strangers. Step Three taken precipitously could be disastrous. A sauna is a stifling and unpleasant atmosphere if experi-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

enced without preparation. Even if you have read about it and talked with those having experienced it, you cannot the first time stand the heat. A few seconds and you seem to be suffocating. You are in an alien and uncomfortable environment. Your heart races; you gasp for breath, and you bolt for the door. If you take the three steps in order, making sure that you’re comfortable with one before attempting the next, chances are you will never experience the panic of the sudden sauna. And if by chance you do, you can temporarily retreat to the safety of the previous step. There your wounds will quickly heal. And you will again be ready for Step Three. More ready, in fact! Your first attempt, seemingly unsuccessful, will have given you an edge. You’ll know a little more about what to expect. Things will not be so totally foreign as the first time. The sauna will be bearable. After a while, even pleasant.

BELIEVE THESE THINGS Their Ways Make As Much Sense As Mine
To like those who are not like yourself, you must first believe that their ways make as much sense to them as yours do to you. This is easy advice. But it’s practically impossible to do. Only as part of Step Three is it possible. It’s natural for you to think that the axis of the earth protrudes through your home town. Every human being on this planet makes that assumption. Everybody thinks their way is the way. But this way of thinking and learning can be changed. When attempting this change, those who have done well at Step Two will find themselves far ahead of those who have not. Step Two will have already brought you to a satisfying and defensible relationship to your own people. Step Three, then, calling as it does for you to recognize and sanction outsiders, will not crush you in an avalanche of rejection and denial of your own people. The temptation will be strong to make a trade, your people for

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 41 theirs, surrender of your old values to embrace the new. This is not the thing to do. You can never really be an insider among the outsiders. To attempt such a relationship is almost to guarantee rejection by both. Life on the perpetual periphery will more than likely be your lot. As part of Step Three, it will be possible for you to believe that their ways are as defensible to them as yours to you. Such a belief is a logically and emotionally satisfying extension of Steps One and Two. If you can make yourself believe this, you have begun the final step, a step beyond the confines of you and yours, a step beyond the outer limits that otherwise circumscribe your life—the limits of ordinary people whose lives never move into the land of ours, a land in which the cultures and values of all people are endorsed and accepted as good.

But For Accident Of Birth, I Could Be One Of Them
It will help you to recognize that other people have the same aesthetic, spiritual and emotional attachment to their way of living as you do to yours if you can believe that except for an accident of birth you could be one of them. What if you had been born in another time, another culture, to parents with a different value system? To realize that you could have been another can help you deal more lovingly with someone who is not like you. Every person on the planet occupies his or her own distinct bit of physical and social space. Each of us is born to particular people in a peculiar place. You could have been born in India or Africa or China or any other of the world’s 185 countries. You could speak any one of 3,000 languages. You could be Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jew or another of the world’s religions. You could have been the other sex, another race, a different height and weight, with less or more intelligence, money, looks, eye-sight, hearing, health. On and on we could go with what you might have been by birth.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Can you entertain this notion? Is your mind able to imagine what could have been? Can your psyche handle the implications? Can you stretch your soul? Some people can’t. And it’s a pity. But these people mistakenly assume that such notions are treasonous, sacrilegious or just plain dumb. This is not the case, but trying to convince them is like trying to bail the ocean. For every argument, they have a counter argument. It is useless to reason with these people. They have not taken Steps One and Two; until they have, there is no way they can take Step Three.

“Who’s Right?” Is The Wrong Question
To ask who’s right when dealing with those who are not like you guarantees trouble. Once asked, this question launches you on an endless and fruitless quest in which your own people are bound to come out on top. A lifetime of living life your way has prepared you to give no other answer. You may convince yourself that you have objectively and thoroughly examined the evidence before deciding that your people are right and they are wrong. But you haven’t. You can’t. Your verdict grows out of your biases, your unconscious distortions which you can never correct. Your only course of action if you are ever to like those who are not like you is to make yourself believe that they are as right as you are. If you must ask a question, and I think you should, the question ought not to be who is right but how did you and they come to be different. More about this below. For the moment it is important to understand your need to believe that right is equally on both sides. If you really believe this, you cannot help but adopt a more charitable attitude toward those from a different culture, religion or value system. If you cannot believe this, you will find it impossible to relate constructively or even to feel comfortable with those who are different.

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 43

I May Never Agree With Them, But I Can Relate To Them
If not, there is no hope for peace in this world. You will always have disagreements with those who differ from you. You will not agree about the taste of food, the way to worship, and 101 other things of some importance to both of you. This does not mean, though, that you cannot relate to each other. Just the opposite: Your disagreement makes your relationship that much more crucial. Unless the lines of communication between you and them are kept open, allowing disagreements to be defused before they reach the explosive stage, you are locked into a confrontation somewhere down the line. What a monumental waste, what an avoidable tragedy when your people and theirs take up arms against one another because you haven’t been visiting and talking to one another. The failure to neighbor is never announced as the cause of war. But what is said is seldom what is so when describing why people fight each other.

They Are As Attached To Their Way As I Am To Mine
Once you believe that they are as right as you are, you are ready to go just a little farther and believe that they are as attached to their way of life as you are to yours. Can you see that this belief is an even stronger endorsement of those who are different? It is impossible for you to believe that they are as right as you are without understanding that they are as emotionally and intellectually committed to their view as you are to yours. Their life revolves around what they believe just as yours does. Take that away from them and you destroy them as surely as if you had physically killed them. At the center of your personal universe is that nucleus of values and norms and goals that give your life purpose and direction. They are just like you. All of your encounters with those who are not like you must be wrapped in this protective gauze, this belief of yours that they are deeply attached to their way. Direct and unprotected contact, without the protection of this belief, may wound all parties, a festering


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

sore of distrust and suspicion its only outcome. Protective gauze is not a shield. Gauze is permeable and medicinal. It fosters healing. A shield is deflective and militaristic. It protects invaders. You can shield yourself by believing that you are right and they are wrong, that you truly believe in what you are and do while they only pretend. You can do this. But it will forever shield you also from yourself, from knowing and enjoying your total humanity, from being vulnerable and open, from being a part of all life. You will move through life as a manikin, looking like the real thing but never feeling, never extending, never growing, never changing. If being a department store dummy does not appeal to you, I recommend that you adopt these beliefs which can deliver you from your debilitation.

The World Would Be A Poorer Place If They Did Not Exist
You are positive beyond doubt, I’m sure, that the world would be a poorer place if you did not exist. Good! Can you extend this belief to include those who are not like you? I hope so. For not only is it true, it’s therapeutic. Believing this propels you into projects designed to save ways of life that might otherwise disappear. To hear talk of endangered species brings visions of near extinct wildlife to mind. But the term could just as well apply to those many cultures and value systems now under threat. The whole world is being homogenized; diversity is disappearing. The process is accelerating. And the world will be the poorer when the process has been completed. If you wish to put a halt to the cloning of America, if you find spiritual and psychological sustenance in human diversity (and you do whether you know it or not), it is not enough that you simply endure the different. At best, this will only delay the process. What you must do is to endorse the different; publicly and effectively proclaim your support. You must believe with all your heart that the world would be a poorer place if they ceased to be. And believing, you act.

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 45

Only By Understanding Them Do I Come To Understand My Self
If you have never been among people unlike your own, there is no way that you can know who you are. Like all people, you live in a world taken for granted. Human beings live by assumptions. But to even know what those assumptions are, you must momentarily escape them. This is what you do when you are not among your own people. If for no other reason, this is why diversity must be maintained. Only in a foreign setting do you come to understand why you behave at home as you do. If you were never to understand this, you would be always ignorant of your own motivations. Ignorance is always worth fighting. A typical day in each of our lives is lived entirely by assumption. From the moment we awake until we lie down again to sleep, we have done literally thousands of little things without giving to any of them a single thought. Should I wear my socks? Which one do I put on first? Which leg goes first into my jeans? Where do I sit at the table? What do I put on my plate? Is everything edible? How do I brush my teeth? All these questions, and we’re still at breakfast. If we had to worry about all these things, we might decide never to get out of bed. In a foreign setting we would be tempted to stay in bed rather than face another day of non-stop thinking. None of us realize that we live by assumption until suddenly we find ourselves unable to do so. So long as we are among familiar people and places our assumptions keep us secure and move us through the day, much as a bottle protects a message and carries it to shore. But the moment we find ourselves in a foreign culture, that silent alarm we call our subconscious puts us on our guard. We are immediately uneasy and apprehensive, uncertain about what to do, but certain that everyone is watching us, and finding fault. Have you ever visited the tilt house at an amusement park? Everything is out of kilter: Water runs uphill, windows and doors sit


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

crooked, you can’t walk straight. But there’s nothing wrong with the room. It’s all an illusion, a trick which works because of the assumptions you bring into the room. If you could check out a different set of assumptions as you entered the room, it would all make perfect sense and you could make your way through without the slightest problem. But, of course, you can’t. Changing assumptions is not like changing clothes; it’s more like a bone marrow transplant. Changing assumptions is a long and painful procedure, not likely accomplished in the time any of us spends in a foreign culture. This means, then, that as a foreign visitor we live in a constant state of inner turmoil, a state made worse by the fact that we never know why. Having assumptions that don’t fit is not like having an open wound that requires obvious attention. It’s more like needing glasses and not knowing it. I’m reminded of the Hindu student from India who got sick to his stomach every time he entered an American restaurant. Eventually he came to tolerate but never to enjoy these places. We finally figured out the reason, though that did not solve the problem. Never in his life had this Hindu student smelled meat. He was a vegetarian. His entire system, physically, mentally, spiritually, and aesthetically, had fine tuned itself to the appearance and aroma of his diet. He had no idea what it was that sickened him when he walked into an American restaurant. He didn’t think he should tell his host family how he felt. They would be offended. He tried to eat but could not. His family thought it was that particular dish and ordered others. He could eat none of them. After an expensive and embarrassing hour or so during which nobody ate much and everybody apologized, they all went home, the student to his room to write a heartbroken letter home, and then to bed where he pulled the covers over his head, drew himself into a tight little ball and sobbed into his pillow. The host parents down the hall fell into bed emotionally exhausted and soon had resumed their running argument over inviting an unappreciative and selfish for-

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 47 eigner into their home. All this heartache. And nobody to blame. The student was not selfish; the parents were not stupid. They each were tied by their assumptions to a different set of realities. When that Hindu student walked into an American restaurant, his sense of smell was overwhelmed by the lingering odor of meat that had been fried, baked, broiled, stewed, boiled, and otherwise served over the years. Anyone who regularly visited that restaurant had become so accustomed to the smell that only its absence would have been upsetting. Never having smelled meat, the student could not identify what it was that made him sick. All the sights and smells of America were new to him. He could not identify or isolate any of them. This student was not aware—as none of us are aware—that a country has a smell. Without his even knowing it, that smell had become a part of him. When the smell changed, he changed. The host parents had every reason to think that inviting a foreign student to live with them would not be all that different. Their own children had had friends stay over. And one summer two students from another state had stayed with them while working in their church. The parents were outgoing, loving people. They could handle whatever little problems might come up. But inviting a foreign student into your life is not simply the addition of another person; it’s the addition of a conflicting set of cultural assumptions. Much pain is to be expected. On both sides. Then why do it you ask. I’ll tell you. There is life in pain. It is to people who have suffered that all of us look for guidance. It is easy to pass judgment on problems we have never encountered. “Here is what I would do,” we say. If that advice is to be credible, if we are to have much real confidence in it, we need to have some intimate acquaintance with the situation. The pain of living with a foreign student is a growing pain, a certain sign that tomorrow we will be a more thoughtful, insightful, useful person than we are today. Several years ago my family took an A.F.S. (American Field


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Service) student from South Africa, a lovely girl just about my daughter’s age. My wife and I wanted her to be an equal part of our family, so we assigned her the same household chores our three children were expected to do. My wife and I knew that our children all expected to be treated alike. They had been taught to help around the house, and we assumed that our A.F.S. student’s family had the same expectation of their children. Our children would certainly resent someone their age living for a year as a guest in our house, doing no work and expecting to be waited on. As it turned out, the mother of our A.F.S. daughter did all the household chores in South Africa. Our student assumed that our household ran like hers at home. Our efforts to get her to do her share of work produced many tears and little work. Our own children also began to complain about being slaves. Shortly after Christmas, our student left us and moved in with another family. We all felt like failures but were grateful for the reduced tension in our home. We never talk about that experience today. We have no contact with the young woman who is now married in South Africa. I can’t honestly say that I know how the other four members of my family interpret this episode in our lives. But I would not undo that experience. Whatever we might say, I think we are all more compassionate and sensitive people. We know first hand how careful we must be in assuming. And how fragile we all are. A few months ago I took a Japanese student into Kansas City where she spent the morning assisting a teacher with a class of fourth graders at a Muslim mosque. When I picked her up for lunch, Mizue said she had a terrible headache from having to think so long in English. She had studied English for years in Japan, but a few hours of solid English exhausted her. So I thought I would help her relax by taking her to lunch at a Japanese restaurant. She had told me she missed Japanese cooking. Since I am male and grew up in the South, it has always been

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 49 my custom to hold the door open for any woman. As we left the Muslim school, as we got into my German car, and as we entered the Japanese restaurant, I held the door for Mizue and let her enter before me. I did it without even thinking, and wouldn’t have thought about it till now except for what she said. “You embarrass me,” she said. “How?” I asked. “In my country, women always follow the men, and students never go before their teachers,” she said. Here I was trying to help her relax after a hard morning, and I was only making things worse. I was grateful she told me. Several times since then, we have gone places together, and I try not be a “gentleman”. I often forget, and it’s awkward if she is one of several females in the group. I’m uncomfortable if I don’t hold the door for them. But she is uncomfortable if I hold it for her. Because Mizue and I have met, we both have been forced to think about what we do and why we do it. We each are more aware now of what we do and why we do it.

What Are the Really Basic Differences Between Us?
What are the really basic differences between you and your people and them and their people? To remind you that all of you have the same number of arms and legs, eyes and ears, teeth and toes may sound condescending, as if I’m talking down to you by pointing out the obvious. I don’t mean it that way. I mean to call your attention to your basic similarities. Your skin may be a different color. So may your eyes and hair. Chances are that you ignore the latter two. What makes the first so important? You may speak a different language, practice a different system of government, worship a different god, or the same god in different ways. Your family system may differ. You may play different games. And so on.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

The thing I want you to think about is what these differences really mean. How deep are the differences? How and why do they matter? The first set of differences mentioned above are all physical and deserve little consideration when thinking about basic human differences. Skin color has about as much relevance to any other human characteristics as the fact that people who live in cold climates wear more clothes than those who live in hot. Both are differences but mean only that each is doing what the environment demands. There are no basic genetic differences between groups of human beings. Some Neanderthals among us still waste everybody’s time and money with their self-serving attempts to find a difference that makes a difference. I’m sure it’s only coincidence that the one doing the finding comes out better by comparison. How lucky can you get? If you think about it long and hard, you will no doubt conclude that the most significant differences between groups of people are cultural: language, religion, work, values, customs. These are learned, on your part and theirs. You then are left with learning as the basic difference between you and them. It seems fairly obvious, then, that you can learn about your differences, your goal being not their elimination but their elucidation. Learning to live with your differences, to profit from them, to find them good—this is your goal in thinking about what your basic differences really are. Understanding how and when human differences originated is helpful in assessing how much significance we ought now to attach to these characteristics. Of even greater consequence, however, is understanding how and when we become aware of these differences and begin to pattern out behavior accordingly. The human infant is a plastic creature; it can be stretched and shaped to fit whatever value system its overseers wish. It can be taught any one (or several) of the few thousand available languages. The babe can be made a scientist or a shaman, a Christian or a

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 51 Communist, a killer or a compassionate friend. The newborn can be programmed to ignore or to focus upon the intra-group differences its adults have learned. In his study of the Greylag goose Konrad Lorenz discovered that the goslings would follow around the first moving object they saw after hatching, even if it was Lorenz himself. Even after later interacting with other geese, they retained their attachment to their substitute mother and sometimes preferred to court the imprinted object rather than other geese. Lorenz found that the newly hatched bird could be imprinted only during a narrowly defined stage of development occurring 13 to 14 hours after hatching and ending by 30 hours. If such a process occurs in humans, the sensitive period during which imprinting takes place must be measured in years rather than hours. But probably not many years! Students of human personality argue that basic personality characteristics have been established by the time a child is six years old. If a child by this time has acquired what Adorno (The Authoritarian Personality. N.Y. Harper & Row, 1950) calls the Authoritarian Personality, it is because that child has learned rigid distinctions which will forever separate and elevate that child from those who are “different.” If during these sensitive early years the human infant participates in a positive and supportive environment with a wide variety of physically and socially distinct people, the mind of that infant will not register those differences. In much the same way that native peoples unfamiliar with cameras cannot see themselves in a snapshot, children imprinted with diversity cannot see differences visible to others. It may not be an exaggeration to compare those who early in their lives are deprived of diversity to those who are deprived of essential nutrition, nor to suggest that the result in either case is irreversible brain damage. To wait until all the world’s children are nurtured in diversity before attempting to like people who are not like you is to wait for-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

ever. Though we will never fully escape the social retardation to which our childhoods make us heirs, we can with effort step beyond the boundaries of our ordinary lives. Most people no doubt would consider it instinctive for a cat to chase and kill a rat. But a series of classic experiments demonstrated that while a kitten learns to kill the kind of rats it sees its mother kill, some kittens raised in isolation do not kill rats at all. The kittens will let the rats run about the cage, climb over their back, eat from the same dish, even allow the rat to pull food from its mouth. Similar results were obtained when kittens were raised in cages with adult sparrows. The implication seems clear: Kittens do not see themselves as different from rats or birds unless they are taught. In the absence of this teaching, there is no killing. Would this work on people?

How And When Did Our Differences Start?
Differences are due to separation. Anthropological evidence indicates that human life originated in Africa some three million years ago. (For a fascinating account of anthropological detective work into the origin of human life read the international best-seller: Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, Donald A. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey, Simon and Schuster, 1981.) Over vast spans of time, descendants of these first humans spread slowly to other parts of the world. Always these small pockets of migratory people were separated from one another by mountains, oceans, deserts, jungles or just plain distance. The natural environment acted on these people all this time. Those living in hot climates acquired a protective coloring and hair texture that shielded the head from a fearsome sun. Bitter cold climates produced an eye better shaped to filter the bright light reflected off snow and a padded sinus cavity to facilitate the breathing of bitterly cold air. Long angular bodies developed among those people living on vast expanses of flat and open ground. Short wiry bodies became the rule for those who lived in dense jungle. Short and squat was the

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 53 norm in the Arctic. Cultural differences also arose from separation. People ate what was available and clothed themselves from what nature provided. The sounds they made to communicate and the things they needed to communicate about were unique to them. When later they began to make symbols to stand for sounds, these also were unique. Thus arose the multiplicity of spoken and written languages found in today’s world. Even in today’s world, with its surfeit of communication media and transportation devices, separation is still a dominant human characteristic. How easily we think that these devices have eliminated the separation. Not so. Most of the world’s people have little access to these things, and most of these things are not used to bring people together. The bigger problem, however, is that other things now separate people. Physical barriers such as seas, mountains and deserts have been replaced by class, national, and religious barriers. But these barriers are built upon the original ones. Had it not been for those mountains and deserts, people might never have invented the barriers of class, nationality and religion. What would these barriers be based on if everyone looked alike and spoke the same language? Speaking a language fashions the thought process in a given direction. What you can think is restricted to the language you speak. That’s true for everybody. Out of all the thoughts available to human beings, you can think only a fraction. They can only think a fraction. But it’s a somewhat different fraction. You and they talk and think on different wave lengths. There is much overlap but never a convergence. Suppose Americans and Russians spoke the very same language. That would ease but not erase the tensions between the two nations. It is in the histories of the two countries that much of our present problem started. Frederick Jackson Turner wrote an influential essay on the effect of the western frontier in shaping American character. He argued that the very presence of all that open land, where neither


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

laws nor fences set limits to individual behavior, created a people who were optimistic, self-reliant, determined, believing they could shape events and conditions to their will. And we are a young country. Our 200 plus years marks us as a juvenile among the major countries of the world. Russia, by contrast is an old country. And if countries act their age as people do, we would expect some disagreements. Russia also has lost millions of its people in wars and has lived under totalitarian governments for centuries. Russian people have had little contact with other nations and little access to competing points of view.

How Am I Like Them?
Of course, you cannot think very long about your differences without wondering how you are alike. From all that we have learned about human beings, we are able to draw several firm conclusions about basic similarities of all people. Pioneer social psychologist, W.I. Thomas, in the early part of last century listed the four basic needs of all people as: • the need for security • the need for response • the need for recognition • the need for new experience The evidence is convincing that all people have these needs, regardless of their cultural differences. Expression of the need is different in various cultures, but the need is the same. More recently, psychologist Abraham Maslow has written about what he calls the Hierarchy of Needs among human beings. According to Maslow, people have a hierarchy of needs ranging from such basic physiological needs as hunger and thirst to the highest psychological need of self-actualization or self-fulfillment of one’s potential. Lower needs must be at least partly satisfied before higher ones can exert their influence. Maslow’s position is that secondary needs begin to operate as primary needs are satisfied. This could account for some of the apparent differences between those who live in technologically

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 55 sophisticated societies and those in simpler societies. Differences in attitude, motivation and behavior—seen in this light—reflect a difference in the technical level of living rather than a basic human difference. The social sciences today speak with one voice (but many jargons) when it comes to the question of basic human similarities. They all tell us that the differences that seem so obvious—and need so to be protected—are but varying expressions of the same needs, prompted by the same hopes and fears, looking toward the same eventual end. How are you like the Abkhasians? Tucked away from the world in a little country half the size of New Jersey and absorbed in 1921 by the Soviet Union, the Abkhasians are nestled between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Save for one characteristic, the Abkhasians might never have caught the attention of the world. (Benet, Sula, Abkhasians—the long-living people of the caucasus: New York. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974.) The Abkhasians are the longest living people on earth. Because so many live so long, the Abkhasians have no term for “old people.” The Abkhasians are more likely than any other people to live longer than 100 years. And those who do are referred to admiringly as “long-living people.” Each Abkhasian village celebrates a holiday—the day of long-living people—in which all elders parade in full dress and the rest of the village gathers to pay them homage. A troop of Abkhasian dancers in which everyone is 90 years of age or older regularly performs before audiences who delight in their agility and the quality of their work. No allowance is made either by audience or performer for a lesser performance due to greater age. If anything, the opposite is true. So think about how you are like those who are unlike you. It’s a more fruitful line of thought than you might suppose.

Are They As Uncertain About How To Relate To Me?
You feel uneasy when you are among strange people. You


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

don’t know what to say, how to act. You have to think about things you ordinarily do by memory, almost by reflex. Have you ever wondered if they are as uncertain about how to relate to you? They are. But your intellectual awareness of their uncertainty can never be as keenly felt as your emotional awareness of your own. Think about it though. It will put you in a better frame of mind when you find yourself among them; it may also prompt you to go among them more often. Uncomfortable situations are to be coveted. And sought. If you are at all inquisitive, you will wonder about the source of your discomfort. You will ask yourself questions you would never otherwise think of. Another way of saying you are never uncertain or uncomfortable is to say you are in a rut. There’s not much adventure and hardly any growth in such a life. And it won’t happen if you take Step Three.

What Is Really Happening In My Encounter With Them?
Think about what is really happening in your encounter with them. When encountering those who are like you, much that transpires is practically unconscious. How and where you stand as you talk, the gestures you make with your hands and face, the inflections and tone of your voice—these you do automatically, having absorbed them by long and intimate contact with your people. Most of your conversation also follows a carefully prescribed pattern requiring little thought. The prescribed question (first person): “How are you?” The prescribed response and return (second person): “Fine. How are you?” The prescribed closure and new beginning (first person): “Fine. Nice day, isn’t it?” Ensuing conversation (second person): “Yeah. Little warm though.”

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 57 First person: “You’re right there. Sure could use some rain.” Second person: “They say this is the driest summer on record.” First person: “So I hear. How’s your family?” Second person: “Fine. And yours?” First person: “They’re fine. Well, good talkin’ to you. Have a good day.” Second person: “You too.” There is nothing wrong with this conversation. And though it seems on the surface to be devoid of much meaning, it is in fact chock full of it. In the first place this conversation could take place only between those at ease with one another, those who make the same assumptions regarding their relationship. This conversation also characterizes the culture from which the speakers come. Why is it they ask what they do and not something else entirely? Why do they ask about each other and not an honored grandfather? Or a horse? Or a dog? Or the crop? Why do they part with an injunction to have a nice day? Why not with a prayer? A joke? A question? Such questions never come to mind when you are among your people. If so, they have been forced by your reading something like this, and they will not last long. Habit will reassert itself. And it should. You would not be comfortable among your people if it did not. But among them there is no habit to govern you. In this situation you must try to figure out what is happening in your encounter. Thought is the substitute in this case for habit. Carefully done, such thinking is guaranteed to lead you to like those who are not like you.

How Will My Children And Theirs Relate To Each Other?
Relationships between groups of people have a way of changing. From one generation to the next they seldom remain the same. So you might well spend some time thinking about the possible rela-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

tionships your children might have with their children once they all have become adults. What will your children have learned about them from you? Most of what they will have learned is not what you intended to teach them. Not the intentional teachings which you sat them down and drummed into their heads, but the off-hand remarks and the way you relate yourself to them: This is what your children will pick up on; this is what will color the relationships your children devise in the future with them. Think about what your children will learn about them from you. Will your intended and your unconscious teachings be complementary or contradictory? Will what you teach prepare your children to relate constructively or destructively to them? Will your teachings enhance or thwart the development in your child of openness and eagerness to relate to them?

What Does Knowing Those Who Are Not Like Me Tell Me About My Self?
I believe you will find yourself out there among those who are different from you. I have taken students for years to visit ethnic and religious communities unlike their own. The obvious reason in going of course is to learn about the communities, those other people whose ways are different. I tell those I take that they go also to find themselves. I think they do not believe me. Or more to the point, perhaps, do not understand me. It is not because I am profound. Nor are they dumb. It’s simply that the statement sounds so much like a platitude, a truism devoid of much real meaning. That is not the case. And before the encounter has ended most of those who go have begun to see themselves in a new perspective. Another dimension has been added to their lives, and they are busy charting their new location. They have weighed anchor and set sail. Destination unknown. But full speed ahead. I do not ask that you accept at face value my assertion that you will find yourself among those who are different. I ask only that you

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 59 entertain the possibility, that you continually ask yourself what knowing those who are different can tell you about your self. One thing I have learned from knowing those who are not like me is that there are no opposites. My wife and daughter are not my opposite sex, they are the other sex. And that is a different matter entirely. The notion of opposites is misleading. Armed with that notion, we see opposites everywhere: night and day, life and death, good and bad, black and white, true and false, rich and poor, moral and immoral, male and female, right and wrong, sacred and secular, love and hate, enemy and friend, and so on. The notion of opposites is useful in teaching young children to see differences. Young minds are not sophisticated enough to make subtle distinctions between things that differ only slightly, things that in reality are very much alike. So to instruct the young mind we construct a convenient fiction: the notion that things that differ a little, differ completely. When my children were young I taught them opposites: It’s dark at night, the sun is out in the day; our country is good, another is our enemy; our religion is right, others are wrong. They asked such hard questions; What is dead? Where does the sun go? Why do we go to church? Why don’t we go to Johnny’s? What’s an American? Why don’t we like the Russians? I gave them simple answers. I was busy. I didn’t think they would understand. They were asking five questions at once. I didn’t know what else to say. I wanted them to shut up so I could get to all the other things I had to do. Looking back, I’m not sure that it was entirely for my children’s sake that I answered in opposites. They might have been able to handle answers that embraced more of the total situation. Fact is, though, that I couldn’t have given those answers. I didn’t know them. Still don’t. But I’m now aware they exist. Maybe when our species was young, opposites were a survival strategy. Without an almost instinctive appreciation of who was a friend and who an enemy, life could have been hazardous and short.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

If that is where this notion of opposites comes from, we should salute it for its past usefulness and retire it to a prominent place in the museum of antiquities. If ever in the world there were opposites, they have now passed away, no more life in them than in the notions of a flat earth or bleeding the sick. There are no opposites: Everything is in some way like everything else. That some do not see this is a limitation of their mind, nothing more. That many still act as if opposites were real contributes to much of the anguish in this world. This you will learn as you spend time among people who differ from you. What is your favorite food? Whatever it is, imagine that from this day on you have nothing to eat but that one item. Before long, you would be sick of that food. You would be willing to eat most anything else just to have something different. Now, imagine that from this day on you can spend every waking minute with your favorite people. You will never have anything to do with anyone else. Before long, you will be sick of those people, eager to talk to someone else, anxious to see a new face and to engage a different personality. Though you probably never thought of it in these terms, some food is your favorite because most of the time you eat something else. Your favorite food usually is reserved for special occasions. Likewise, some people are your favorite because most of the time you are with someone else. You would have no way of knowing that someone was your favorite person if you were never with someone else. Only by being among strangers can you know who your friends are. And who you are.

DO THESE THINGS Learn Another Language
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, travelers can stick babel fish in their ears and instantly hear anything that is being said as if it were spoken in their native tongue. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 61 Chances are that you don’t speak a foreign language. American know-how does not include the knowledge of another language. Only eight percent of all U.S. colleges and universities now require a foreign language for admission, as against 34 percent in 1966 and 85 percent in 1915. No wonder: Only 15 percent of American high school students study a second language, and barely a handful of them pursue these studies for more than two years. The President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies in its November 1979 report concluded that incompetence in foreign languages has helped to create a “dangerously inadequate understanding of world affairs” and has damaged U.S. economic and diplomatic influence. “Nothing less is at issue than the nation’s security,” the report declared. The lack of language training in America’s high schools and colleges has forced the foreign service to drop its requirement that recruits speak a foreign language. When the U.S. Embassy in Iran was seized in 1979, only a handful of the American personnel there spoke Farsi. More than three thousand languages are spoken by the six billion people on planet Earth. If you are to have much hope of knowing the vast majority that does not speak English, you need to learn another language. In learning language, you learn not only how to communicate with another people, but how to view their world as well. You cannot think some thoughts in English. Some ways of looking at things are also impossible. English, for example, uses the word “love” to describe how you feel about God, your parents, your girl or boy friend or spouse, your country, your neighbor, your car, your favorite food. Greek, on the other hand, employs more precise terminology: philos for love of neighbor, eros for sexual attraction, and agape for love of God. To expect foreigners always to speak English when dealing with you is to make a greater demand of them than they make of you. It is also a guarantee that they will understand more of the


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

transaction than you do. It’s no wonder that Japanese business is doing better than American in the world economy. The Japanese study English. To speak a second language, whatever it is, gives you a comparative outlook that you will never otherwise have. You will understand your own language: the assumptions, the omissions, the limitations. You will recognize the kinship of tongues. You will appreciate those who differ from you by language. It’s not necessary that you be fluent in another language. Just a phrase, even a word, can be more helpful than you would ever imagine. The people you visit will be flattered that your care enough to attempt their language. I think it was more than my imagination. Things really did seem to change when we finally remembered the word for “thank you.” We had been in Athens for a day, big-eyed and swivel-necked, feeling more than a little awkward! People were nice. Many spoke English, but we couldn’t say anything to them in their language. I felt like the ugly American. Then in the back of my mind something began to work on me, something I had heard about the Greek word for “thank you.” It sounded like a part of the body, I seemed to remember. Finger, head, arm, foot, toe. Toe! That was it. But that wasn’t all. What else? Not just anybody’s toe, a little voice in my head kept saying, a certain person’s toe. Who? A giant, an elf, a leprechaun? For some reason my mind was running to fairytale people. That’s it! A fairy’s toe. That’s the word for thank you. I was 99 percent certain I had the right word. But it took a little courage to use it the first time. I have no idea what that word looks like in print or how close I was to the actual pronunciation. But I do know I felt Greek when I said “a fairy’s toe”. I felt more a part of the country and culture. The feeling I got from using that phrase is the thing I remember most about Athens.

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 63

Visit Ethnic Communities; Attend Their Places of Worship
Another thing you should do in order to develop an appreciation for those who differ from you is to visit ethnic communities. Rather than a trip to another country, an American ethnic community is the place to start. Here you will find a middle ground between your own people and them. Ethnic communities are made up of hyphenated Americans: Mexican-Americans, Black-Americans, Native-Americans, GreekAmericans, Italian-Americans, and on and on. These are people who retain a tie to their differentness yet share a basic sameness with you. Another advantage is the proximity of ethnic communities, enabling you to visit there often. Frequent visits over an extended period of time are much to be preferred over the one time shot which is your most likely encounter with a foreign country. By going often for short visits to ethnic communities, your awareness and appreciation of their differentness can accumulate slowly, protecting you from the culture shock that often comes with foreign travel. The nearness of ethnic communities also makes it possible for you to check-out your initial impressions on return visits. Having gone before, you are prepared to ask about and look for certain things when you return. You will arrive at a far more accurate picture of what the people are really like the more often you are among them. Because ethnic Americans share your nationality and can usually speak your language, you will feel more at home than if you had actually gone to their country of origin. This feeling furnishes you with a powerful psychological and emotional buffer to protect your fragile self image in that interval between amazement and awareness. After each visit to an ethnic community, go back to your own people and talk to them about what you saw, heard, and felt. Such conversation will not only prick the interest of those you talk with,


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

but will help you to sort through your experiences to find the meaning they had for you. After several visits to the same ethnic community you will have developed a relationship with some of the people. The better you get to know each other, the more you will find yourselves in meaningful dialogue. You will be able to talk about your impressions of the ethnic culture and to ask about the accuracy of your assessments. Your goal in visiting ethnic communities is to understand what goes on there as those who do it understand it. You want to see it through their eyes. You want to lose your notion that these people are quaint or dumb or misguided. These are not qualities that any people possess. These are evaluations which stand between people, invented by the outsider to sanction arrogance, to prevent contamination, to justify putting people “in their place.” And when used in this context “putting people in their place” always applies to them. It is never something you would want done to you. It’s a place at the foot of the table, in the other room, out of work and out of luck. Visiting ethnic communities will help you put people in their place in a positive sense: a place of understanding and compassion, a place of justice and equality, a place of mutual respect and cooperation. In addition to all this, visits to ethnic communities can be downright fun. All the new sights and sounds, the food, the new ideas, the excitement of the unexpected: these can infuse your life. You cannot escape the enthusiasm you find here for the simple, everyday acts of living. Friendship, food, family, politics, religion, music, neighborhood—you will see them all from a new perspective after several visits to various ethnic communities. One place you should go is to their place of worship. The ethnic church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or whatever it may be called, is the most important place in their community. It is the hub

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 65 around which everything revolves. The pastor, rabbi, minister, priest, mullah, imam—whatever the name—still speaks the native language, and knows it well enough to teach it to the young. Most of the activities designed to keep the culture alive take place in and through the place of worship. Ethnic religious leaders are also leaders in preservation of the ethnic ways of life. Nowhere can you more quickly or thoroughly come to understand and like the ethnic community than through the place of worship. To worship with the ethnic community will do another even more meaningful thing for you. It will reveal to you how much you and they are really alike. This will not happen when you worship for the first time with them. Nor will it happen until you have worshipped with a number of different ethnic groups. Until you have been several times to several places, you will be put off by the differences between their ways and yours. The time of meeting, the order of worship, the design of the building, the titles given to the leaders—these at first will monopolize your attention. Once you get past these things—and you will with repeated visits—you will begin to notice common themes and similar assumptions. You will recognize the struggle for meaning in life which is the heart of all religious experience. Attending their places of worship will make possible for you a new relationship both to your own faith and people and to those who for the same reasons give different expressions to their religious needs.

Eat Their Foods
To learn to like other people, learn to eat their food. Of the hundreds of thousands of edible things in this world, you eat much less than one percent. So accustomed are you to that diet that you think all people would, if given the chance, choose to eat as you do. So think they.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Not only does diet vary, but the method of preparation as well. A given item can be prepared in more ways than you could ever imagine. So familiar to you are certain foods fixed in certain ways that your mind will not let your stomach venture into the unknown. But you can change your mind. If you’re a normal person, able to tolerate normal food, there is nothing eaten by other people that you cannot also eat. You may not want to, but you can. Eat first, talk later: This is the cardinal rule to follow when eating in an ethnic or foreign culture. If they eat it, it won’t kill you. It probably won’t even make you sick if you don’t know what it is. In Alexandre Dumas’ epic The Count of Monte Cristo, a visitor to the underground island castle of Sinbad the Sailor is offered an unfamiliar food unpleasing to his eye. After Sinbad sings the praises of the strange substance, the visitor responds: “Do you know, I have a very great inclination to judge for myself of the truth or exaggeration of your eulogies.” Sinbad is delighted with his guest’s willingness: “Judge for yourself—judge, but do not confine yourself to one trial. Like everything else, we must habituate the senses to a fresh impression. His guest then tastes the dish set before him and expresses some displeasure, prompting Sinbad to respond: “Because your palate has not yet attained the sublimity of the substance it flavors. Tell me, the first time you tasted oysters, tea, porter, truffles, and sundry other dainties which you now adore, did you like them? Could you comprehend how the Romans stuffed their pheasants with asafoetida, and the Chinese eat swallows’ nests? Eh? No! Well it is the same with hatchis; only eat for a week, and nothing in the world will seem to you to equal the delicacy of its flavor, which now appears to you sleepy and distasteful.” What is it that makes you sick when you know what it is? It can’t be the food. If so, you would get sick even though you didn’t know. It’s the knowing that makes you sick. It’s having learned that the food is yukky, inedible, gross. It’s your expectation that makes you ill. These things you will learn about yourself on your gastro-

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 67 nomical sojourn. Chances are, too, that you will learn to like the people who eat that food as you come to like the food. Neither will any longer seem strange or repulsive. Eating their food will change not only your dietary options: it will also enlarge your circle of friends. There is nothing people would rather talk about than food. Nothing will more quickly cause people to think you like them than your sincere interest in their food. If you sit down with them to eat their food you are engaging one another more nearly as equals than is possible in any other way. Over a meal, you and they are more likely to be relaxed than would be the case in another setting. People drop their guard when eating: You and they will be less wary with one another over a meal. Meal time is a time out, and as in a football game, neither party expects anything of consequence to transpire. But it does—possibly because it is unexpected. The various religions are alike in that they admonish their adherents to break bread with their neighbors. This admonition is not so much designed to relieve hunger as to enlarge brotherhood, to widen the circle of friendship. It works!

Study Other Cultures
Nothing you can learn about them from books can ever equal what you learn from contact. But if that contact is to be of maximum value, you must read. Your contact will give you random and isolated impressions. To make sense of these impressions, you need to know what others have to say about understanding those who are different from you. You will want to know about cultural anthropology, history, comparative religions, geography, diet. You will need to systematically study one or more of these disciplines in order to get what you must know from contact with those who are not like you. The one thing you will most need to acquire is the ability to judge a thing from the point of view of the one who does it rather


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

than from your own. To ever accomplish this rare skill you will need all the reading and all the contact you can possibly manage.

Put Yourself In Uncomfortable Situations
Discomfort is desirable. It is unavoidable, in fact, if you are ever to stretch and strengthen your intellectual, moral, and spiritual muscle. As the caterpillar sheds its cocoon to become a butterfly, so you must periodically shed the safety of your accustomed environment if you are ever to spread your wings. Discomfort is a marvelous teacher. If you are willing to endure it, especially if you can bring yourself to seek it, your will discover an amazing resiliency and adaptability which you will never otherwise recognize that you possess. Nearly worn-out old house shoes are probably the most comfortable things you ever put on your feet. But you would be in bad shape if you had to wear them in the mountains. For such terrain as this, you need a sturdy pair of boots. The boots will not feel nearly so good to your feet. When first put on, they pinch and bind. But they free you to go places in the mountains, to scale the heights. Learning to like people who are not like you will require that you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, that you periodically slip off your old house shoes and into a new pair of boots.

Feel Good About Not Trying To Change Them
You will know you have arrived when you feel good about not trying to change them. Most of your contact with those not like you, if you are a typical human being, is designed to make them more like you. To convert them to your faith, sell them your product, get them to vote for your candidate, convince them of this or that— these are the usual motivations for contacting them. Once you have begun to like people who are not like you, these things will not be on your itinerary. You will not only endure their differences; you will endorse them. You will protect them, knowing that you are also protecting yourself. To make them like you would weaken yourself. Your strength is in their apartness, as

Step Three - Learning to Like People Who Are Not Like You 69 theirs is in yours. If all the world were a rose garden and you sat down at every meal to your favorite food, you would soon die of boredom, if not physically, certainly psychologically and spiritually. It would be a tragedy beyond your understanding if everybody you touched became like you. If somehow you acquired the Midas Touch, enabling you to transform all those you contact into psychological and spiritual replicas of yourself, you would have unknowingly triggered the Doomsday Machine. Marching lock step with an army of clones, all of you would, like the Lemmings, come hard up against an unyielding reality with which your sameness did not prepare you to cope. And you would perish. So relax. Relish their ways as you do yours.

Don’t Pretend To Understand
One last thing you must do if you are ever to like those who are not like yourself: Don’t pretend to understand them. They may think they are speaking perfect English; and after their third try at telling you something, you may be too embarrassed to admit that you still do not understand. So you fake it. You smile and act as if you have suddenly caught their meaning. Don’t do it. The chances are good that they are as aware as you are that communication has not occurred. And because you broke off the conversation with a feigned understanding, they might well conclude that you don’t really care about what they had to say. Your motive may have been just the opposite—a desire to spare their feelings by not calling attention to their language deficiencies. Pretending, however, is not the way to do it. If you really do want to understand—and make a friend in the process—don’t let the matter drop until you understand one another. One way to do this is to find a third party, perhaps someone who knows both of you or speaks both languages, and ask their help. Another way might be to write or draw on paper, point, make gestures. It will alleviate any potential embarrassment if you


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

assume full responsibility for the lack of communication. “It’s my fault for not speaking your language (for being so thickheaded, such a dimwit, etc.).” Whether you really think this or not, say it. After being in this situation several times, you will come to believe it. And every time you say it, you make that extra effort without which you will never come to understand those who are not like you. Now that we have discussed what you need to believe, think about and do in order to take the three steps to a perfect world, let us turn our attention to the different arenas in which you might take those steps: the personal, the family, the religious, the political, the social, the cultural, and the world.

Chapter 5
Where To Take the Steps YOUR PRIVATE WORLD
Your private world is made up of two parts: (1) your person and (2) your family. Both need attention if you are to move toward a perfect private world.

Your Person
The word person comes from the Latin persona and means “one who wears a mask.” Just to know that is to possess an insight of great value. To realize that the word chosen so long ago to serve as the name of a single human being is a word which catches the multiple dimensions of the individual personality is a humbling and freeing discovery. No longer can you be so quick to label as “hypocrite” or “two-faced” those persons who seem to contradict what you think them to be. It may be that you give them—and yourself—too little credit for improvisation and adaptability. Step One requires that you have greater expectations of your person. It will help if you can picture persons as molded from plastic rather than iron, as pliable instead of rigid. A person is an orchestra, not an instrument; a diamond, not a pearl. Your person performs in a larger theater than you ever imagined; your repertoire is larger than you think. You live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with your person. Unless you take Step One with that person, it’s going to be a long and boring life. You can become a virtuoso, experiencing in your person the full range of emotion and meaning of which you are capable. You can answer with a resounding “yes” to Emily’s question in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, when she asks:


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

“Does anyone ever appreciate life as they live it, every single minute?” It will do you little good to worry about the world’s problems; you won’t get far in your efforts to relate better to other people— both of these are premature so long as you do not understand and appreciate your person. It is a tragedy that religion has given so many people such a negative and destructive view of their person. Rather than rejoicing at being created in the image of God, millions of Christians have been cowed by that flawed theology which taught them to sing a “worm such as I” and shamed them for ever considering their person as worthy of praise. Liberation theology is a much debated topic in religious circles today. It would profit each of our persons if this notion could be applied not only to unjust political systems but also to unjust views of our person. We are all beautiful and marvelous persons. We are filled with abilities and potentials. Religion serves us well where it seeks to channel these into that great body of beliefs that can buoy our soul when life does its worst to us. But a religion which destroys our person, which shames and mocks what God has made, is tragic beyond our understanding. We so want to believe in God, so need to feel that life has a larger purpose. So desperate are we for this assurance that we surrender our person to those who tell us we must. But denial of self is not hatred of our person. How can we square Jesus’ admonition that we love others as we love ourselves with the oft preached theme that “I” is the most damning word in the Christian vocabulary? Step One is hard for that person who does not believe in God. Such a person likely will not feel that overpowering, joy-giving awe which we describe with a single word: Soul! Authentic soul food is not something you eat, but something you feed those feelings which lie deep inside you, feelings that can never surface without the strength they derive from those feedings.

Where to Take The Steps


“I am a child of God, created in His image. Today is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. If God be for me, who can be against me?” So saying, you turn a deaf ear to those who would break your spirit and bind your soul. Well meaning they may be; sincere though they are, these misguided ones do not appreciate their own persons. They seek to escape their lack of appreciation by having others share it. Don’t do it. Leave them to their misery. Don’t buy their narrow version of the truth. There is no reason you should share their limited view of God and their distorted perspective of their person. You don’t have to feel guilty about your personal needs and desires. You need not always surrender your ambitions and goals out of concern for others. You can know and seek to follow God and still be red-blooded, full of vim and vigor, in love with your person, determined to make your mark in the world. You can live without apology knowing that the God who made you, made all; and that God intends no less for you than for anyone else. It will not be arrogance which springs from such a perspective on your person but a deep and abiding appreciation, not only of your person, but of all persons. Wrapping your person in this constant appreciation will enable you to move through life at a higher level, a level at which you expect the best of yourself and of others. When disappointments come, when other persons seem not to be so nobly motivated as your person, your appreciation of persons, yours—and theirs— will lift you above the suspicion and condemnation which your person would otherwise heap upon their person. If you allow your person to attribute base motives to other persons, you reveal a basic mistrust, even a dislike, of your person. Step One demands of you that you appreciate rather than depreciate your person, that you build yourself up rather than tear yourself down. If ever you are to move toward a perfect private world, it must begin with a grand and noble view of your person. Your person is awesome: eager to appreciate beauty; quick to acquire knowledge,


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

able to become wise; capable of courage and compassion; seeker of adventure and meaning. Your person wants and needs to know other persons: Gregariousness it is called by social scientists. Your person would shrivel as a raisin in the sun if forced to live as a hermit. It has even been suggested that persons are not born human, but become so in interaction with others. The oft-heard indictment, “He is not human”, used to describe someone whose behavior we deplore, suggests that we all recognize that humanness is an acquired characteristic. If this is so, then your person learns to be human through knowing and relating to other persons. To become as human as possible then, your person must relate to as many other persons a possible. The problem is that barriers to these relationships have been erected. Your person is cut off from most other persons in the world by barriers of race, religion, nationality, language, culture, economics, education, social class, age, sex, and a host of other characteristics. We are all exiles in a world of boundaries. Your person is made to relate only to that small number of other persons already much like you. Without knowing it, you have become a hermit; your person shrivels like a raisin in the sun. Your person becomes dried and wrinkled, attractive only to those in a like condition. Your person can rid itself of those wrinkles, inject the juices of life into that dried skin. Your person can be rescued from its hermit’s condition. But you must do it. After realizing the marvelous, awesome person you are, you must launch out into that unfamiliar sea of other persons: the sea called them which now cuts you off and surrounds your island of self, but which can carry your person to new worlds of meaning and excitement. Step One of the three steps to a perfect world describes those specific things which you can do to learn to like your person. After doing these, you are then ready to take Steps Two and Three, which will help your person get to know and like other persons.

Where to Take The Steps


Your Family
If you are lucky enough to have a physically and emotionally intact family, you probably take it for granted. You may well spend more time worrying about your relations at work, next door, at church or school than at home. If you do, you’re perfectly normal. But that may be at least part of the reason the family is in trouble. Your person is probably most comfortable when alone. You cannot live in isolation, but other persons cause your person some discomfort. That discomfort is greatest when among a crowd of strangers and least when you are with your family. It makes sense then, that you worry most about those situations that cause you the greatest discomfort; thus, the family gets largely ignored. Let’s change that. Why? Because your welfare is tied more closely to your family than to any other group of people. If your family fails, so will you, at least for a while, and in part. You probably know very little about the members of your family as persons. Chances are that you spend more time talking to them than listening to them. What are their problems, their hurts, their ambitions? Despite the fact that you very likely don’t know, and are uneasy at the thought of finding out, these persons in your family are more like you than anyone else. This is the logical place then to first take Step Two. Learning to like those who are like you can be most comfortably accomplished with your family. Getting to know them as more than role occupants of a shared biology can shed more light on your person than any similar amount of effort otherwise invested. Learning to like your family members as persons can enlarge your appreciation of them and you and the relations that bind the whole. Your family will become less strangers who share a roof and more a conscious community of aware persons. You will spend a good part of the rest of your life looking back on the family relationships of your childhood, trying to figure out how those other members molded and fashioned your person. If you can practice Step Two with your family, it will not only be easier to figure out the


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

influence your family had on you, it will also insure that that influence is as positive and constructive as it’s possible to be. You also will exert a similarly beneficial effect on other family members. Families may just happen in the biological sense, but that is not the case with the social and spiritual dimensions of family life. These require conscious, knowledgeable, and dedicated attention. Otherwise, the family is nipped the bud; and though it might survive for a while in that condition, it never blooms, never gives off the sweet fragrance that can delight all those around. Too many people devote themselves prematurely to the world at large: too many politicians seek office, too many ministers preach to the multitudes, too many doctors attack sickness, too many businessmen capitalize on their investment—too much is directed by all of these toward those legions of people they do not know at all. How much better, how much more satisfying it would be if we all first devoted ourselves to knowing our family. Once the family has become a safe harbor, a place where you are happy and at peace, you can venture with courage into that void which lies beyond you and yours.

Once you move beyond your own person and your own family, you begin to draw on that capital you have accumulated. Those psychological checks you write in this larger arena will bounce if you’ve not salted away the strengths you need: Whatever commitments you make to church or politics or society will fall short of expectations. There comes a time in your life—in every life—when you feel a need to take Steps Two and Three. And to your credit, most of you will make the attempt. Those who have not taken Step One, however, can never fully realize the great expectations they hold for themselves. Always there will be the sense of being not quite right, a vague feeling of being a little off balance. The problem will be that you are out of step. Your cadence is wrong; you will not know the drummer to whom you march. Rather

Where to Take The Steps


than full speed ahead at this point, you need to ease your person into reverse, to travel again those paths you have already trod, to reexamine the landscape and find your self along the route. Only then are you really ready for the farther journey—your pilgrim’s progress. This is a public journey. Strangers accompany you. Others peer from the shadows. You are always on exhibit. Someone is always passing judgment on your behavior and the motivations which prompt it. Those who do not know you are not always kind in their treatment of you. But this is where life is. You dare not withdraw. If you close out your account, where do you bank? Don’t give up on religion, politics, and society. If you choose not to live in these arenas, you’ve chosen suicide. You are dead in all but the physical: You’ll make no difference to yourself or anyone else. Don’t write off your culture because you think some other system of living is preferable. Chances are that you will feel less at home in your adopted than in your native culture. Accept who you are and where you are. Turn both to your advantage and to the advantage of others. Let us now enter these public arenas. Let us examine them. And find our place.

The Religious Arena
All the world’s major religions teach love. Yet religious differences historically and still today prompt people to take up arms and propaganda against each other. Who among us is wise enough to know whether our faith would have more or fewer followers if for the past several centuries that faith had spread by contagion rather than conquest. If Christianity, Judaism, and Islam had relied on the power of their teachings to transform individual lives and on that transformation to radiate and elevate communities and nations, would these faiths be smaller in number today? To answer yes is to admit that these faiths must deny their own


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

teachings in order to convert non-believers to those teachings. Sounds ludicrous stated so bluntly, but that is essentially the business of organized religion. To answer no is to admit that these faiths have not had sufficient faith in themselves. Apparently believing that they must compete militarily, commercially, and politically, these faiths have devoted their considerable energies and talents to activities that differ hardly at all from those of governments and corporations. What would the religious map of the world today look like if the only force ever used to spread the faith had been the force of individual personalities consumed and reconstructed by their spiritual insights? Were we not so quick to choose up religious sides, how much deeper and more satisfying might our spiritual understanding become? Religious people and organizations spend too much time trying to convince themselves and others that they are right. It should not be forgotten that the word propaganda comes from an office of the church which, centuries ago, was charged with spreading the truth. As a teenager in East Texas in the early 1950’s, my own budding spiritually was chilled by mean and arrogant religious ignorance. The First Baptist Church dominated that community: the biggest building, the most members, the largest budget. The church stood only two blocks from the town square and the court house. It was good to be a Baptist. Better yet to be a member of First than to belong to one of those smaller Baptist churches about town. My parents, my brother, sister, and I were members of First Baptist Church. I never met a Jew or a Catholic during those growing-up years. Looking back, I suppose there must have been some in town. But I can understand why they would not have wanted to be very visible. From what I read and heard at church, Jews were Christ killers. They were all rich, having gotten that way by loaning money at high rates of interest to people who were forced to borrow. Jews were clannish, devoted to “their own kind” but caring nothing about

Where to Take The Steps


the larger community. “Jews are going to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus.”When I heard this said, I detected a subtle difference in the voice and facial expression of the one talking. It was years and much reading later before I felt I understood the meaning of this body language: These devout Baptists were getting even with the Jews. To those 1950’s Baptists, Jews were living well. Too well. But their time was coming: They would spend eternity in hell. These good Baptists, whose present standard of living they saw as deficient, would turn the tables in the hereafter. Justice would be done. God was on their side. Catholics did not fare much better in the Baptist church of my youth. The Catholics worshipped idols, prayed to the Pope, paid money to have their sins forgiven, asked forgiveness from a priest rather than from God. They drank and danced. They fingered beads when they prayed. They worshipped Mary. Their Bible was different. They talked in a foreign language. The clerical collar, the rosary beads, the idea that communion wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus and the bread his flesh— all this was more than any of us understood. And we all feared. I was living in another Texas town by 1960. I had graduated from college and was a high school teacher. So deeply imbedded were my religious prejudices and so little attention had I devoted to their examination that I was persuaded to vote against John F. Kennedy for president lest the Pope occupy the White House. Today, more than three decades later, I regret having learned and done these things. I am ashamed. I will always wonder how my life would differ had I been taught to expand my circle of life rather than contract and contort it. I am still a member of the Church, still a Baptist. I have taught at a Baptist college for 30 years. I teach Sunday School. My life is given thrust and direction and context by the Church. I love the Church. I appreciate Baptist doctrines and traditions. I have won the right, I think, to be critical.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

I am practicing what I have been preaching in the earlier part of this book when I say that I have thought long and hard about how I should live out my religious life. There was much in my early church life to stunt my spiritual growth. But what I have described here was only part of the whole. Much of the other was positive and supportive. I learned that God loves me and that I could love myself and others. To retain this positive legacy while cutting out the ugly part has been one of the major objectives of my adult life. I know that it is possible. In taking Step Three in the religious arena, your task is to go beyond your ordinary boundaries. Outside your denomination, your faith, there is religious meaning and there are religious people. For your own sake and theirs, you need to know that meaning and those people. To get to know those people, never mind who’s right and who’s wrong. Who’s right and who’s wrong is never the question to ask unless you want to start an argument. Judging by how often it’s asked, however, it is the easiest question human beings ask. Religion is especially good at this question, though it is usually put as a statement: We are right. To seriously ask who is right in the religious arena is apostasy, and the one who asks may be drummed out of the church (synagogue, mosque, temple, etc.). It’s a shame. The shame is not so much that the questioner is put out. The shame is that the question was asked. It’s a bad question. No one deserves it. So long as this is the question, the answer will always be destructive. Rather than who is right, the question ought to be: How are we all right? This question will strike those who believe they have a deep belief as a denial of their faith. It only seems so. The question really is an expander of faith, a commitment to learn more about the faith of others. And if what I have been saying about finding yourself when you visit others is true, asking how we are all right will lead you to a more meaningful faith and a better relationship to those of other faiths. From long experience I know it will not be possible for many

Where to Take The Steps


people even to think about their faith. Thinking they were thinking about their faith, these legions of true believers have spent years reinforcing their position. Reading only that material published by their people, talking only to those like themselves, they should not be surprised that their belief has strengthened. They are not so aware that their tolerance and compassion have correspondingly shrunk. It is to those of you still able to question yourself at this deepest of all levels that I address this plea. If you can believe that all people are right in some respect when it comes to religion, then you will be drawn into looking for the right in them. Perhaps they will reciprocate. Even if not, you will have begun your personal quest for religious awakening, your pilgrimage toward a new relationship to them and a new understanding of yourself, a doing unto others as you would have them do to you. If in no other way, all religions are right in that they assume a larger dimension to life than is readily apparent. The philosopher Descarte built a whole philosophical system on the one thing he could not doubt: the fact that he was doubting. And if he were doubting, he had to be thinking. “I think, therefore I am,” he reasoned. “And if I am, then . . .” And he was led to posit the existence and reality of everything else. All religious people, whatever their faith may be called, believe in a power beyond themselves, one to which they must connect to energize their lives. From this one basic undeniable you may branch out as Descarte did, to a new and more secure world, a world of more profound and satisfying religious insights, a world of more meaningful relationships to those of other religious persuasions.

The Political Arena
Politics make strange bedfellows some sage once observed, implying that those of different political persuasions could get together on specific issues. The story goes that two of the most ardent proponents of prohibition were the bootleggers and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Though they had different reasons for wanting


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

to outlaw Demon Rum, they found themselves working toward the same goal. It’s enough to make a body wonder. What do all these “isms” and party platforms and fiery speeches mean? If read side by side, the constitutions of the U.S.A. and the former U.S.S.R. sound virtually identical. Aside from the fact that particular wording might be familiar to you, you would be hard pressed to tell which was which. The rights guaranteed to the citizenry and description of how the process works are not that different. Apparently, then, people who say different things can wind up doing the same thing. And those who say the same thing can then go and do their own things—things as different as night and day. If you are the least bit cynical you might be inclined to dismiss politics as much ado about nothing. Don’t do it. A thing that molds the lives of millions of people, a thing that sends one nation to war with another, a thing which may vaporize all life in a nuclear cloud—that thing had best be treated with respect. And care. If you are to take Step Three in the political arena, you will need to appreciate both the power and the absurdity of the political process. In politics you will find displayed more brilliantly than anywhere else the comic and the tragic which make up our lot on this earth. Capitalism and Communism seemed destined to manage no better than a cold war in their dealings with one another. Suddenly, though at the highest levels of government, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. were saying encouraging words to one another. Hostile actions gave way to cooperation. Relations improved as we moved through the 1990’s. But we have grown so wary. We are afraid to hope. Still you can take Step Three. Enough people taking Step Three might prevent our all stepping off the precipice. You can get to know the people of the former U.S.S.R. They are a resourceful, resilient, remarkable people not unlike yourself. They have a great enthusiasm for living despite centuries of authoritarian rule. They have produced some of the world’s great lit-

Where to Take The Steps


erature, music and art. They are a history making people who cannot be ignored. It will not be easy to take Step Three with the Russians. Centuries of governmentally imposed isolation from the rest of the world have turned them inward, into a xenophobic people, insecure and uncertain in their dealings with outsiders. Mistrust is mountainous on both sides. But mountains are there to be climbed. And you can do it if you will follow the guidelines for Step Three. It’s no doubt a bigger step in this arena than in any other. Religion in America no longer has the muscle to marshal military force. That takes at least some of the edge off inter-religious contact. Cultural and social differences can be ignored without immediately disastrous results. Not so with politics. Ignorance or inattention here and it’s all over. Finished. No need to worry about anything else. I do not tell you this to frighten you. You cannot take Step Three out of fear. And I would not suggest that you take it out of some feeling of responsibility that the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. If you take it, do it because you want to, because you have risen to the challenge, because you want to see if you can do it; and if so, what difference it makes. I cannot guarantee to you that it will change the course of world events. But I can guarantee that it will change you. And for the better. The ancient rabbi who taught that “as we treat a single person, so we treat the world,” should be remembered in this context. The rabbi’s teaching would seem to say to us that as we remake our person, so we remake the world. Your confidence in your own abilities, your belief in the goodness of other people, your courage in the face of overpowering odds, your awe at the fragility of life: All will grow apace as you make yourself into a loving person.

The Social Arena
King of the Mountain and Dress Up are popular childhood games; the first based on that near-universal characteristic of human


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

cultures to dominate; the second, on that equally wide-spread dream of being somebody else. Adults also play these games. By the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the house they live in, adults play their games. Unlike the children, though, the adults have no call to supper to end their games. The game becomes life. The attitudes come with the real estate. Imperceptibly, adults acquire the defensive values to complement their higher rung on the social ladder. Intending only to better themselves financially, they become different persons. Without the time now to reflect on their new person, short of the intellectual and emotional capital to question themselves, these social migrants float ever upward, becoming progressively less able to relate to those who are not like them. Becoming well to do is like moving to an island, building a castle and surrounding it with a moat. Those who do so learn to relate tolerably well to others who have done it, but these are few in number. And they are all inward looking, most of their time being taken with schemes to maintain their favored position. After a while they have lost whatever capacities they may have one time had to know a wider circle of people. Without ever knowing it, they have paid a dear price for their new status, a price higher than they might have been willing to pay were there some way for them to see the ledger before it was written. But status seekers are not the only ones who have trouble relating to those who are not like them. Those who have little or no status have a similar problem. Constant suspicion and stereotyping of their competitors for the crumbs is their everlasting lot. Multiplied millions of Archie Bunkers lash out blindly at all those they so easily and enthusiastically hate. But for them, these fearful ones believe, their own lives would be made perfect. Driven by frustration, drawing from the legacy of hate passed to them by countless generations, the little people of this earth turn their wrath on others who share their plight but differ in

Where to Take The Steps


color, religion, language or national origin. In doing so, they create a scapegoat and, in their minds at least, moderate their misery. Neither the status seekers nor those deprived of status are ever likely to learn to like those people who are not like them. It probably will never happen except on an individual basis. Even there, it will happen only among those relatively few people privileged to learn about human differences, endowed with a mind-set which tolerates ambiguity, and dedicated more to relating than to acquiring.

The Cultural Arena
Human cultures differ drastically and number in the thousands, but each human being on this earth has been fashioned by only one. With a few of the others the average person may have a speaking acquaintance, being able on occasion to impress a friend with an obscure fact about a “quaint” or “queer” people. Most people learn about other cultures like they learn about animal life—at the zoo or the museum. That is preferable to no learning at all, but it is largely artificial. Cultural traits are popular tourist traps today. A traveler stops at a trading post on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and is assured that the trinkets are authentic. Stamped on the backside of the first one he picks up is “Japan.” Unperturbed, the proprietor explains that it stands for “Jugs and Pottery by American Navajos.” So much in the news today are such cultural items as food, holidays, and religious practice that many people think they know another culture because they have read the newspaper or seen a television program. This glimpse of another culture can be mistaken for a total view. If so, it may actually stand in the way of further learning and arrest appreciation. Learning to know the people of another culture is the only way to really know another culture. Only by relating to a person of another culture will anyone ever feel the gut-wrenching which comes with realizing the cultural abyss that divides people. Culture is not a facade designed to give people pleasing distinctions. Culture is not ornamental or decorative. Culture is life


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

itself. Human beings live in culture and for culture. Culture is a people’s way of life. They will fight for it, and, if necessary, die. In the most basic sense, a person—you or they—does not live by bread alone, but by the way that bread is made, the values about life which determine what is done with it, and the notions which prompt its making in the first place. Culture is soul deep. Culture fashions opinion and attitude as much as dress and diet. The whole approach that every person has to the world, the only way that anyone ever sees “reality”, the thing that prevents those of the same religion but a different country from recognizing their common faith—in all cases, CULTURE. Physical differences are not really what make a difference. When black, red, brown and white people interact with each other, they are conscious of their color, but it’s culture that’s the culprit, that keeps them from seeing eye to eye. Take that phrase—seeing eye to eye. Those of us born and reared in America understand it to mean that persons discussing a particular topic all understand it the same way and probably agree on what action to take. We know the phrase is not to be taken literally. It’s downright funny to try to picture a group of people trying to adjust their height so they can actually peer directly into another’s eyes. What we may not recognize is how culture bound the phrase itself is. In many cultures it is an insult to look another person in the eye. Many American Indian tribes, for example, teach their young to turn their eyes toward the earth and their ear toward the speaker when in conversation with another person. Not to do so is to show disrespect. Similar prohibitions against eye contract are generally found in Asian and Islamic societies. But let’s go back to color for a minute. I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of color among humans. I’ve been even more fascinated at how we come to see and name those differences. The available evidence suggests that infants and young children do not recognize color differences in their playmates. Only after about age six do most children begin to identify themselves and others by

Where to Take The Steps


some color word. Several years ago I visited an inner city elementary school to talk with a fifth grade class. The school was inter-racial, and I wanted to help these children learn to get along with each other. In my talk I referred several times to the fact that some of them were white and some were black. After we had finished talking, I left the classroom. As I waited in the hall for the teacher to come and tell me how she thought it went, I was feeling good. I was not prepared for what the teacher said. “Could you come back and talk to the children? They are upset because you called them black.” I learned a heart-breaking lesson in the next few minutes. These nine year old black children did not like black people and did not see themselves as black. “Why did you call us black?” asked one little black girl. “Don’t you like us?” Somehow in her short life this little girl had learned a lesson that would forever interfere with her ability to like herself and other people. She had learned that to be black was to be bad and ugly. Why does this happen? Why at this age? Why is skin color elected? Why not hair or eyes? Why not a wider range of colors? Black, white, red, brown and yellow aren’t really adequate to describe more than five billion people. As many as 7,000 colors have been identified as being detectable to the human eye. If we humans really have our hearts set on dividing ourselves into color teams, we have much more opportunity available to us than we are using. More than any other one thing, the color of a person in America determines the direction his or her life will take. It’s even possible in the United States for a white person to be black, but not for a black person to be white. Does that strike you as strange? Walter White was white to the eye but he identified as black and served for years as Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His autobiography, How Far the Promised Land, describes his attendance at several meetings of the Ku Klux Klan. As he traveled across the coun-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

try in his official capacity, he would hear about the local KKK plans to harm the black community. White would attend the meetings, then he would alert the black community. The KKK couldn’t tell that White was black. They never knew why their plans went awry. An American until recently was legally black if he or she had one-sixty-fourth black (Negro) blood. Outward appearance was insufficient to determine one’s color. The law also overlooked the fact that all human blood is interchangeable, provided only that the type (A, B, AB, O) is matched. Blood cannot be classified by the color of its owner. Many Americans have heard the story of two apparently white people who got married and had a black child. Movies have been made and books written around this theme. The message? A person can be black though white. We have at this point taken several giant steps beyond our initial perception of skin color differences. We are now looking within the person in search of a hidden color which may without warning loose itself among us. And with disastrous consequences. All this in spite of the genetic principle that a child cannot be darker than the darkest parent. In 30 years of teaching race relations, I have never had a class in which someone has not heard of a black child born to white parents. But in those same 30 years, not one person has been able to bring me reliable verification to support what they have heard. Suppose the day comes in a century or two when the first intergalactic space traveler reaches earth. Further suppose that on her/his/its planet, color distinctions are not made. That traveler will not see our differences: We will all be the same color. Sound impossible? Consider the inhabitant of an isolated village on the far side of the world. The first outsider ever to visit takes his picture with a Polaroid and hands him the picture. But the native does not see himself. He has not been taught to see that arrangement of light on a paper as a person. Until he is taught, he can never see it. For the picture of a person is not on that paper. Never will be. The picture of a person is in his head. It won’t be on the paper until it’s

Where to Take The Steps


in his head. It’s not the color but the culture that prompts people to see one another as they do. As the song from the musical, South Pacific, says: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear You’ve got to be taught from year to year It’s go to be drummed in your dear little ear You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made And people whose skin is a different shade You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late Before you are six or seven or eight To hate all the people your relatives hate You’ve got to be carefully taught.” If you are ever to like those who are not like you, you must develop strategies which enable you to resist this social poison. You must then attempt to replace these negative culture traits with positive ones. The Three Steps outlined in this book show you how to go about this.

The World Arena
The land, water, and air of this earth are currently divided into some 180 different countries, the number varying with the fortunes of war and the ebb and flow of politics. By name, these countries run the alphabet, from Afghanistan to Zambia; by land area, they range from the recently deceased Soviet Union’s 8,647,250 square miles to Nauru’s eight; and by number of people from China’s more than one billion to Nauru’s 6,500. The more than six billion people on this planet are assigned citizenship in one of these countries depending on where they


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

chance to be born. From birth, each person in this world is a “national”, is taught nationalism and learns to be nationalistic. Propaganda campaigns are incessantly waged by all nations in order to convince their citizens that other nations are at least potentially dangerous. Unrestricted contact between citizens of even neighboring nations is not allowed. Suspicion and mistrust of other countries are carefully cultivated as bedrock beliefs of nationalism. Step Three demands of you that you somehow and at least partially escape the confines of nationalism. Some few thousands of people have gone so far as to declare themselves world citizens: They refuse to secure passports when going from one country to another; some have even rejected citizenship in their country of birth. This is not a wise strategy, for the principal reason that it involves a rejection of one’s own people. Anyone pursuing this course is likely to be rejected by his or her own people and to be viewed with the utmost suspicion by the people of other countries. A course better designed to serve your personal needs for liking yourself and belonging to others is the course described in the Three Steps. Those in power all over this earth, and those who benefit from that power, go to bed each night with clear consciences, convinced that their good fortune is due entirely to their hard work. That they are on top because someone else is on bottom, and that those relative positions occur because the system is designed as it is, is a thought that never occurs to them. So what do you do? Does your conscience grow calloused? Do you memorize the litany of rationalizations presented to you in the name of education by that institution charged with preserving the status quo? Or do you take to the hills to foment revolution, tossing out one set of inequities to replace them with another? Maybe you become the fashionable fair weather liberal, giving money to each new cause and professing sympathy with the latest movement. You have not taken Step Three until you have developed a genuine fondness for all those groups of persons that differ from

Where to Take The Steps


you. This does not mean that you will like every individual member of those groups that differ from you. Of course you won’t, any more than you like all those individuals who belong to groups like yours. But taking Step Three will prevent your writing off whole groups of people you don’t even know. Most people have not taken Step Three. In order to justify their timidity and make it seem to be not their fault, these timid ones parrot all the prejudices they have so thoroughly learned. If those who differ from you are dirty, dangerous and deceitful, can you be blamed for avoiding them? Is it not then their own fault that you cannot know them? And so you wiggle off the hook. You take to the peaceful and shallow waters. But life in the eddies is dull and not very useful. Launch into the deep: deep thoughts, deep people and deep commitments. You may get in over your head, but you won’t drown. You will develop an emotional and intellectual endurance as you confront the institutional inequities of which you formerly knew nothing. You will discover after a while that you can also side with those who suffer from them. You can propose solutions not calculated to serve your interests first. In the long run and in the name of the larger human good, these less selfish solutions do serve to advance your own welfare more surely than anything you might otherwise do.

Chapter 6
The Three Step Week Welcome to the three day week. Try it. See what it does to you. And for you.
Identification Day Suspension Day Affirmation Day

The three day week
Identification day for learning to like yourself. Affirmation day for learning to like people who are like you. Suspension day for learning to like people who are not like Several years ago the Amazing Kreskin visited our town appearing one night in the high school auditorium to demonstrate his mind reading and magic powers. Among the many remarkable things he did, I’ve never been able to forget this one. “Close your eyes,” he gently ordered. “I’m going to think of a number. And I want you to think of that same number. It is a number between zero and 50. The number has two digits. Both digits are odd, and both are different.” He repeated this information a second time, then asked for silence while he and the audience concentrated on that number. “How many of you are thinking of the number 37?” he asked. From my seat far in the rear and to the right, it seemed to me that more that half of the 500 or so people in the audience put up their hands. I’ve done that same “trick” dozens of times since that night. It always works. And I think I know why. It’s because in our culture threes and sevens are so prominent: the Trinity of Christian theol-

The Three Step Week


ogy; three strikes in baseball; “third times a charm”; seven days of the week; seven churches in the book of Revelation; Jesus’ admonition to forgive 70 x 7 times; the notion of a sabbatical every seventh year. Seven plus three equals 10; the Ten Commandments; 10 as a perfect score. Get the idea? In another culture, Kreskin would pick another number; in China it would be nine. (The nine dragon wall is inside the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heavenly Peace has its nine concentric circles.) So to the ordinary seven day week, let us add the three days of your Three Step week: Identification Day, Affirmation Day, and Suspension Day. Such an addition could make of you a perfect 10, that one person in your community, your business, your place of worship who best is able to like people who are not like you.

Give Us This Day
Each of our lives is orderly beyond our understanding because every sunrise has a name and each follows the other in a prescribed sequence. Days, weeks and years are inventions of the human mind no less than automobiles, bombs and toothpaste. Without the former, the latter might never have occurred. Were there no Mondays to call us to work or Fridays to release us; no weekends out of which to fashion leisure, conduct worship, lose ourselves in the frivolous, no holidays to break the routine or prompt tradition—then would our lives take on the character of every other living thing on this earth. So far as we have any way of knowing, only humans organize their lives according to the day of the week. This human inclination to name days and to act on those days as we have learned to think proper can be adapted to our three step formula for liking those who are not like us. I suggest a three step week composed of the following: Identification Day, Affirmation Day, and Suspension Day. If we are serious about taking the three steps, of coming to like those who are not like us, then we will at some point want to declare these days as a part of our week. Identification Day we will


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

use to explore and develop our own identity. Affirmation Day is for the purpose of strengthening and celebrating our memberships. Suspension Day is for escape from the ordinary, for immersing ourselves in foreign values, cultivating relationships to people we would otherwise never get to know.

Identification Day
It’s not crucial which days we pick to serve as our Three Step week. But for myself, I find Monday to be the perfect Identification Day. Monday is blue. It’s rainy. It’s the day I don’t want my new car built. Monday is for recovering from the weekend. Monday is not a joiner’s day. It’s the day we are most likely to be let alone, the day our associates are most likely to overlook our crabbiness. We are expected to be less productive on Mondays; enthusiasm and camaraderie are not in such demand. Monday’s reputation makes it the perfect Identification Day. Because we are more likely on Monday than on any other day of the week to be let alone, Monday is the perfect time to delve more deeply inside ourselves. Though for most of us Monday is a work day, we can with a little ingenuity find ample time and opportunity for self discovery. Begin with breakfast. Instead of reading the paper, watching the Today Show or whatever my normal routine, I spend breakfast thinking hard about the only person I’m going to spend the whole day with. Me. What kind of person am I? If I saw someone else doing what I’m going to be doing today, how would I interpret what I saw? How fair am I in passing judgment on him? Am I likely to give him the benefit of the doubt, or will I be harder on him than I would be on someone else? After asking all these questions, I make a double resolve: To enjoy my company for the day; to celebrate my person. It requires a lot of practice and considerable effort to accomplish these twin objectives. I don’t always make it and you probably won’t either. But

The Three Step Week


the effort is transforming. Practice this breakfast routine each Monday. Or perhaps at first, one Monday each month. To make Monday my Identification Day requires only two other things: (1) that I spend as much time alone as possible; (2) that I use my aloneness constructively. Never alone is a reassuring religious conviction to untold millions of people, including me. To believe that God is my constant companion is a source of indescribable, inexhaustible strength. By the same token, the presence of other people is essential to my wellbeing. There are times, though, when I must be alone. There is a hermit inside me to whom I must sometimes listen. He has much to tell me about who he is, but he speaks in a small voice. His accustomed environment is a pervasive, primeval quiet in the inner recesses of my mind. He ventures from here only when I create for him an outer environment as much like the inner as possible. The slightest noise, and he vanishes like the fawn at the step of the hunter. And each time he is spooked, my hermit retreats farther. Some years ago Simon and Garfunkle made a mint with a song called, The Sound of Silence. The fact that so many people bought their record constitutes indirect but compelling testimony to the need we all feel for quiet. The old hymn writer understood that need: “I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, calling on my ear, The Son of God Discloses” If at all possible on Identification Day—if only for a few minutes—I make time to be alone. And quiet. And still. I let my mind wander, aimlessly it seems to me. But so to my eye does the earth seem flat. My wandering mind, enveloped in quiet, brings me always to my hermit. By a route which varies each time I take it and


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

which I could never otherwise find, my quiet mind brings me to the essential me. With no one else around in whom I may see myself reflected, I come face-to-face with myself. It’s sometimes painful, occasionally joyous, always enlightening. I’ve come to know my hermit. Not perfectly, but better. He lives more comfortably with me now. He visits me more often. Used as Identification Day, Mondays for me have taken on a new meaning. I look forward to spending some time with myself. With each passing Monday I find that I can like myself better. I’m glad that I can feel good about liking myself, glad that my understanding of scripture teaches that it’s proper to love myself. Didn’t Jesus say that I should love others as I love myself? If I must first love myself in order to love others, then the time I spend on Identification Day in getting to know more about who I am is not the least bit selfish. In fact, it’s an absolute prelude to any effort I might make at relating constructively to other people.

Suspension Day
All of us are members in a variety of organizations from which we derive meaning and purpose. Now and then we drop our membership in one; now and then we join another. Our memberships constitute the network that plugs us into life. Memberships motivate us. In the name of church or synagogue or mosque or fraternity or party we invest our lives. Our memberships shape us mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Our memberships define and limit our world. But we are more than the sum of our memberships. Many of our memberships involve no choice on our part: our nationality, our sex, our race, our age group. Others we may have chosen long ago: our religion, our college, our political party, our work, our hobbies. And while these memberships tie us into life, they also shut us off from life. From all those who do not share our memberships, we are estranged. Suspension Day is the time to attack that estrangement, to rid

The Three Step Week


ourselves of that feeling of being foreign. I suggest Wednesday as Suspension Day. Another day might work as well for you, though Tuesday and Thursday seem to me to be the only acceptable choices, Being the end of the work week and the time when many people get together with friends, Friday is the perfect Affirmation Day. And the weekend is not the best time to suspend memberships. We need to hear what Will Rogers did not say about liking people. We have all heard, I suppose, his oft quoted remark: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I certainly cannot say that. And I would give a lot to know if Will really meant it. Perhaps he was playing a little loose with the literal truth in order to make a point. We’ve all done that. Since we cannot ask him, let us make the most charitable interpretation and assume that he meant exactly what he said. But let us also hear what Will did not say: He did not say he liked everybody. Even as widely traveled and as popular as he was, Will Rogers had met only a fraction of the people available to meet. So even if he liked them all, he did not like many. If Will could say “I never met a man I didn’t like,” would he have said the reverse—”I never liked a man I didn’t meet?” Can we like—or dislike—a person we haven’t met. Not really. We cannot escape having an opinion and an attitude toward people we haven’t met. We hear so much about them that we can’t be neutral. But in dealing with people we haven’t met, we are dealing with an abstraction. It’s the image in our mind, the reputation abroad in our community to which we react. We can never really like or dislike a particular person until we have had a relationship with that particular person. We fool ourselves when we think otherwise. On Wednesdays I try to get off campus and, if possible, to take students with me. We go to ethnic communities. We eat different foods. We go to rescue missions, businesses, museums, festivals, programs. We talk to a variety of people. We get as involved as nonmembers can in the lives of people with whom we do not share


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

often. But for Suspension Day, we would never share in their lives at all. Suspension Day is the day I live outside my memberships. I do it first by putting myself in a new setting. Living in or near a big city is an advantage in this regard. There are areas and people in the city which I know little or nothing about. Here I head on Suspension Day. This novel setting renders my memberships as nearly inoperative as they can ever be. In my head at first they still operate with all their accustomed efficiency, defining my life and making difficult my relationship to these new people and this new place. Repeated going to various places will clear my head of its memberships, and I may come to feel comfortable even in the presence of those whose only shared membership with me is in the human race. An entire Suspension Day may be more than you can psychologically or physically manage. If so, begin small. Talk to someone you don’t know, someone who is not a member of the groups you belong to. On your lunch hour or on your way home, stop at a place you’ve not been to before. In the evening go to a new restaurant. Talk to the people in the restaurant: the waitress about the food; the owner about the business; anyone who looks willing about what ever seems appropriate. After dinner—or instead of—attend some meeting open to the public. Pick a place you’ve never been but have a curiosity about. Go there. Watch and listen. Ask questions. The important thing about Suspension Day is not its length but its regularity. It’s like exercise in that it will hurt at first. As muscles given new demands signal their displeasure by pain and soreness, so the mind does through prejudice and rationalization. My mind will try to tell me that these people are different, maybe inferior. It will try every trick it knows to convince me that the ways my people do things are the ways things should be done. If Suspension Day becomes a regular part of my life, my mind can eventually be strengthened to the point that it feels no need to assume such defensive postures.

The Three Step Week


Suspension Day releases me from all those routine obligations which flesh out the skeleton of my life. These are obligations that I have one time sought, but which over the years may have added unwanted pounds to my psyche. Suspension Day is my spiritual diet plan: It’s the Lenten season for my mind.

Affirmation Day
Nothing on this earth is so dear as a friend. The value of an old and close friend is beyond calculation. The keeping and strengthening of the ties that bind is the most life sustaining activity we will ever conduct. Friday is a tailor made Affirmation Day. At the end of a busy week, nothing rejuvenates us more than to relax in the company of friends. Much of our week has been spent in activities and with people whose major objective is to get a job done. Chances are we know most of these people only occupationally. Friday nights find most of us in another setting. It’s not what we do for a living that brings us together. It’s our mutual liking for one another, our shared need to share one another’s lives. Almost always we clothe our coming together in some other language: a party, a lodge meeting, a reunion, a ball game. But our Friday gatherings are more basic than that. They are prompted by our need to be in one another’s presence. The activity is somewhat beside the point. Only Friday evenings ordinarily serve to bring friends together, the earlier part of the day going to the work-week. As preparation for the evening, however, I make a conscious effort to devote all of Friday to Affirming my ties to my people: my family, my church, my friends, my job, my clubs and organizations. Affirming takes several forms. Talking with a family member, reading something about my church, writing or calling a friend, paying special attention to my job, planning for my club—these suggest a few of the affirming things possible on a Friday. Setting aside one day of the week as Affirmation Day reminds me to do something that I could do anytime, but which I’m likely to


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

forget without a specific time to do it. I doubt if I would get my work done if my employer didn’t establish a time to do it. Identifying myself more fully to myself; temporarily suspending my memberships in order to relate to other people; affirming my ties to my own people—these are vital processes if I am to like people who are not like me. And these processes are most likely to take place if there is a specific time when they are expected to occur.

Chapter 7
The Human Family Reunion
I didn’t realize at the time that it would make such a lasting impression on me. The year was 1968. The Civil Rights Movement was sweeping the country, and I was again teaching my race relations class at William Jewell. I’ve always thought that students when possible should hear directly from those who espouse a position, so I had on this particular day invited several members of the Black Panthers to come from Kansas City to speak in class and have lunch with us in the student cafeteria. Never in my life have I seen student interest so galvanized: those young black men in their para-military dress, their clenchedfist salutes, their precise gestures, their assured and abrasive speech. The way they carried themselves: standing tall, shoulders back, chin out, eyes clear, looking right through you. They were an intimidating lot. But before the 50 minutes of class had passed those Panthers and my students had chewed on each other and almost every issue of substance. It was not always a polite exchange, but it was most certainly informative. After class we adjourned to the student cafeteria—called The Cage on our campus—where we settled at the big table in the center of the room and continued our verbal sparring. Everyone in the room was soon paying us more attention than their lunch, and the room quickly filled with students who had seen us walking across campus and came to find out what was going on. It was late in the afternoon before the Panthers left. The students wouldn’t let them go until they figured out what made them tick. I don’t know just when it happened, somewhere near the middle of our time together, I think, that I detected a change in our young black guests. They seemed suddenly to realize that we real-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

ly wanted to know who they were and what they thought. They at the end were as reluctant to leave as we were to have them go. I might have forgotten all this had it not been for the events on another campus a week later. A state college not 50 miles from our campus erupted in violence when these same Black Panthers were invited. As I learned later, here is what happened. A black student organization on this other campus invited the Panthers. Everything done on that campus had to be personally approved by the college president. Either because he wasn’t asked or because he feared the Panthers—or both—the president told the students at the last minute to withdraw the invitation. It was too late. The Panthers were on their way. So the president called the local police, who in turn called the national guard. When the Panthers arrived, they were met by their student hosts, hostile administrators, some sympathetic faculty, armed police and national guard. It wasn’t long before rocks were flying, windows were broken, people were hurt, and some were arrested. A few days later, the college president fired several faculty members and expelled the black students who had invited the Panthers. Why the difference in what happened on the two campuses? I must have asked myself that a thousand times in the last 35 years. I don’t think I’ll ever really know the complete answer. But I do think I know the one thing that set in motion these two opposite responses to the same people. On our campus we expected things to go well, for people to part company better friends and more informed. The other campus expected things to go badly. Both campuses realized their expectations. This incident early in my teaching career had a profound effect on me. I’ve never been able to stop thinking about it: It didn’t take me long to realize that each campus had a different definition of the situation and that the different definitions led to vastly different outcomes. But why the different definitions? To answer that question, I must briefly describe for you the locale, personnel, and

The Human Family Reunion


student body of the two colleges. Both are located in small towns of roughly equal size. Both draw the bulk of their students from the state of Missouri. From this point on, the two campuses differ rather significantly. Our campus lies within a metropolitan area of one-and-a-half million people, just minutes away from dozens of different ethnic, racial, and religious communities. The other campus sits 50 miles away in the rural interior of the state, having no opportunity for regular interaction with diverse people. Our campus retains strong ties to its religious heritage, prompting its staff and its students to reach out to people in an effort to understand and to help. The other institution is state sponsored, possessed of no sense of mission other than that common to all institutions of higher learning. Our college is related to a church with a world-wide presence and purpose. The other college is tied financially and legally to a more constricted piece of real estate. Much of my teaching has been directed since this day in 1968 toward insuring that our campus would never become like the other. Toward this end, I have devised numerous strategies. Teaching people how to like people not like themselves has become my major ambition. The human family reunion has become both the major way of accomplishing this task and the obvious demonstration that it has occurred.

Bear with me for a brief discussion of the events leading up to the morning of May 5, 1976—the day of the first Human Family Reunion. The events of this day had three beginnings: one in the 1950’s, one in the 1960’s, and one in the 1970’s. In the early 1950’s, I was in high school in Huntsville, Texas. Chief among my many beautiful memories from that period of my life is going to school every day and speaking to every single person I met. I was not conscious of cliques. It never occurred to me that I should pick my friends based on what part of town they lived in or whom their fathers worked for.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Looking back now on that time 40 years ago, I’m a little embarrassed to admit how eager I was to get to school every morning. (Males are not supposed to feel this way. And if they do, they are supposed to act as if they don’t.) The entire day was heavenly. I really did like all those people, so much so that the memory of it even now makes my scalp tingle, creating in me euphoria beyond the power of any drug to induce. I close my eyes and hundreds of youthful faces parade quickly across my mind. But there is a cloud on that memory: There are no black faces in my parade. Our town had hundreds of black citizens, but my school had no black students. How I wish my memories were not all white. But they are, and nothing I can do will change that fact. Maybe I can change somebody’s future memory. Thus was planted the seed from which the Human Family Reunion would grow. In the mid-1960’s, I came to the college in Missouri where I now teach. I had moved from Texas to Oklahoma in the fall of 1961 when the opportunity came to teach in a college there. I fell in love with college teaching and two years later my family and I moved to Missouri so I could do my doctoral work. By the fall of 1965, I had gotten by Ph.D., and I joined the faculty of William Jewell College. I had planned to return to western Oklahoma to teach, but the moment I saw the Jewell campus, I knew I was home. The hilly terrain was much like my hometown in Texas. And Jewell, like the college I went to in my hometown, sat atop the highest hill, affording a magnificent view of the town and the surrounding countryside. I didn’t even realize until I saw the Jewell campus that I carried in my mind a picture of the ideal campus, an image of what a college should look like. As I gazed across the football-size quadrangle which all the buildings faced, seeing at once the white circular columns fronting all the buildings, the fire-red bricks of which the buildings were made, the dark-green ivy clinging to the north wall of Jewell Hall and shimmering like wet diamonds in the sun, with the skyline of Kansas City faintly visible to the southwest

The Human Family Reunion


and east—as I took all this in, I knew for the first time that I carried in my head that image of an ideal college campus. Instantly I understood why other campuses I had visited, many of them magnificent, had never seemed entirely right. Such a blending of natural and manufactured beauty, my mind had been telling me, was possible. Until I stood for the first time on the Jewell campus, though, ideal and reality had never merged. When in that instant they did, such a feeling engulfed me that were I Shakespeare, I could not do it justice: a feeling of peace, and contentment, and excitement, and rightness. A feeling I had not before or have not subsequently experienced. A feeling, the memory of which is but a ghost of the real thing, but which in its reality was so powerful that the memory is still sufficient to transport me to a dimension of life I wonder if most people ever visit. Looking back, I must have known as I stood on the campus that day that I would spend all of my teaching career in this place. For every time an opportunity later came to leave, I could not do it. Over the years I would dream that I had left Jewell. And I would wake up in a cold sweat. Much of my doctoral work had dealt with problems of racism and prejudice in our society and with programs that had been advocated as solutions. I began at Jewell to teach the things I had been taught. From my teachers, I had learned that prejudice can inflict great damage, causing people to harm each other for irrational reasons. I learned, also, that those theorists who study prejudice have not been able to isolate the precise mechanism by which prejudice spreads. Prejudice seems basically to proceed from ignorance, from the fact that one group of people has little direct and intimate acquaintance with another and, therefore, must simply attribute motives to the other group’s behavior, motives which inevitably are more base than their own. This explanation without a doubt explains much of that behavior prompted by prejudice. It doesn’t explain everything,


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

though. Psychologists, for example, talk about scapegoating, a need that they say prompts many individuals and all societies to cast their own shortcomings and weaknesses on outsiders, thus relieving whatever pressure they might otherwise feel to modify their behavior. If, indeed, scapegoating does serve a need in society, then it would more than likely occur even if all groups in a society were fully informed about each other. To this extent, then, we do not eliminate prejudice by eliminating ignorance. There is also an economic element to prejudice. Given the fact that there are not enough jobs, housing, dollars, college degrees, and so on to go around, prejudice and its accompanying discrimination tend to rationalize and justify the prevailing unequal distribution. Prejudice makes us all believe that people get what they deserve. We may not, therefore, completely rid our society of prejudice when we rid it of ignorance. Having now tried for 35 years to reduce prejudice through education, I have come at last to the conclusion that changing what we teach will not by itself rid our collective body of its social cancer. Simultaneous efforts on several fronts are called for. Having said all this, though, I come back now to make a basic point: Learning is the one thing each of us can do in order to escape the prejudicial atmosphere in which we live, the thing we must do if we would ever attempt other changes. I had arrived at this basic conclusion by the mid-1960’s, though it was with me then more a feeling to which I was attracted then the bedrock conviction it has since become. I could not have put into words in 1966 the rationale which prompted me to join with several like-minded people to begin the decade-long series of meetings we would call The Fellowship House Seminars. I could only have tried to describe for you the sensations of delight and purpose which gripped me each time I met with these people to plan a seminar and the even stronger feeling of being exactly right with the world each time a seminar actu-

The Human Family Reunion


ally came to pass. I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in the early summer of 1964. My purpose in doing so was to study the civil rights movement as it was developing in Kansas City and, thereby, to complete my doctoral dissertation. In the midst of doing all this, I discovered Fellowship House. Forty years earlier, Paseo had been the most beautiful and fashionable boulevard in all of Kansas City. By the time I first saw it in 1964, the street had lost much of its charm, and the big, old homes could no longer be supported in their accustomed style. One such house sat at 3340 Paseo. An elegant red brick with white shutters and trim, massive concrete steps and porch, this was now Fellowship House. I had first seen the name in the newspaper, in a story about an inter-racial, inter-religious dinner held by the members. I had come to the house to find out more. I visited Fellowship House often over the next several months, intrigued by their open and enthusiastic acceptance of all races and creeds. They were not a flamboyant group. They did not march or demonstrate or do anything purposely to call attention to themselves. At that time in Kansas City there was only one restaurant where an inter-racial group could eat together. So on one morning a week, Fellowship House members would go there to eat. These breakfasts were soon a topic of conversation all across Kansas City. Fellowship House also had a doll program. These dolls were fashioned in the image of such well-known world figures as Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and some two dozen others, all people who tried to bring people together. Fellowship House members would take these dolls to schools, churches, synagogues, clubs and private homes and simply tell the story of the people these dolls represented. While at a Fellowship House dinner one evening, someone mentioned a wish to see area college students more involved. Several of us in following up on that wish devised a format which we basically followed for the next 10 years, during which time we


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

brought hundreds of college students into Kansas City and into Fellowship House. Twice a year—fall and spring—we would pick a topic, some urgent issue that needed to be addressed and would attract students from area college campuses. “Black Power” was one of our earliest and most popular topics. “Understanding the City,” “Welfare Rights,” “Conversations in Black and White,” “An Urban Plunge”—these were the kinds of topics we designed our seminars around. To our seminars we invited faculty and students from all the colleges and universities within a 150-mile radius. The larger universities did not respond very energetically. But it was obvious that we had touched a nerve on the more than 20 smaller campuses we contacted. From Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri they regularly came, augmented now and then by someone from Nebraska or Oklahoma or Arkansas who had heard of our program. They would arrive usually on a Friday afternoon, some 40 to 50 of them from a dozen different campuses. They brought their bed rolls and slept for two nights on cots borrowed from the Red Cross. Each of them was assigned to a work detail. They were expected to help prepare meals, set the table, clear the table, take out the garbage, sweep the floor and in general to make themselves useful. Of course the work needed to be done, but the bigger reason we had them do it was so they would get to know the people they worked with. It worked. Beautifully. People learn a lot when they don’t know they are supposed to. As speakers for our seminars we invited community people, persons expressing widely divergent views but all wanting to share their way of looking at life and their own unique personality. We also took the students out into the city. We visited the city market, flop-houses, rescue missions, jails, churches, public housing projects, employment offices, alcohol rehabilitation programs, and dozens of other places where we thought we might get to know interesting people.

The Human Family Reunion


By the mid 1970’s, the Fellowship House Seminars were losing some of their sparkle. It was harder to get people to come. And my own interest was waning. The importance of what the seminars were designed to accomplish seemed to me more important than ever. But I could no longer generate the enthusiasm necessary to make the seminars work. The poor response to our 1975 seminar convinced us that it was time to lay that program in its grave. In the following months I tried to figure out why my own interest in the seminars had waned. I finally decided that they had been too restrictive. By focusing on getting blacks and whites together, the seminars had helped to bring together the two groups most at odds in our society but had not at all addressed the larger question: How to get people together from all races, all religions, and all ages. Is such a thing possible? The cynic in me said no. Yet I knew that 10 years earlier blacks and whites could not sit together in public in Kansas city, and before 1954 could not eat together in public in most of America. I decided it was possible. We could get unlike people of all kinds together in a situation where they could get to know and learn to like each other. Thus we now come to the morning of May 5, 1976: the first Human Family Reunion. Beneath the trees on a grassy hillside, Chebon White Cloud is speaking in his native Otoe. For those of us who speak only English, he translates. But many of our number speak only German; Rosemarie Goos translates. In what must have been the first time ever, the picturesque Otoe Indian tongue, with its earth images and simple dignity, becomes the language of Luther and Nietzsche. From the small town of Runkel, State of Hessen, Federal Republic of Germany, have come 120 members of our family. From the German-American community of Kansas City have come another 40. From Haskell Indian Junior College in Lawrence, Kansas, have come a company of Native American dancers drawn from several different tribes. From across the Kansas City


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Metropolitan area have come scores of ethnic Americans drawn originally from every corner of the globe and every country under the sun. We are standing now in the sun of an early spring day on the campus of William Jewell College. Four hundred of us. Black and white, red and brown and all shades between. National dress and native costume, blue jeans and street clothes. Indian drums and a German brass band. Alpine yodels and western war cries. Fried chicken and Japanese tea crackers. The day is a smorgasbord of sights and sounds and people. We are drawn together this day to mark the opening of the Ethnic Activities Center of Mid-America on the Liberty campus of William Jewell College. From 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, we celebrate our coming together. In Greek, Japanese, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Italian, Navajo, Otoe, Polish, German and English, we recognize our differences, discover our likeness and affirm our ties to the human family. Gifts are exchanged at our reunion: Rings and hats and pins. Wolfgang gives his hat to White Cloud. There are tears and laughter. Lawrence Yellow Fish dances. Sandra Help sings. Horst Reinhard plays the brass drum. Kurt Hampel leads the band. The day ends as we all join arms in a massive folk dance. We stand shoulder to shoulder with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins we have never known and might never see again. When the next human-family reunion is held, the place and the participants may be different. Only a part of the family could make it this time. Four hundred were there, but four billion were eligible. The 1977 Human Family Reunion is indeed in another place, the lovely Tokyo Plaza Restaurant on the far southwest side of Kansas City. We have reserved the entire restaurant for the evening. Amid the delicate paintings on the walls, with subtle aromas wafting our way from beautiful, lacquered bowls, chopsticks at our fingers, and graceful, kimonoed waitresses bringing bewildering arrays of exotic dishes, we sit cross-legged at our tables just a few

The Human Family Reunion


inches from the floor. Some of our less pliable family members are sitting at regular, western tables, and we exchange a few good natured barbs. Some of our less adventurous members do not relish a few of the dishes. Some pretend that they have sampled everything; a few actually do. Most everyone seizes on one dish found particularly pleasing, and compliments to the chef fill the air. Sachi Stroder instructs us in the use of chopsticks, explains to us the importance of beautiful tableware in traditional Japanese dining, shows us how to pour tea and how to wear a kimono. Two hundred of us have come tonight, drawn from 20 of the 30 or more ethnic communities in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Poles, Serbians, Mexicans, Russians, Croatians, Irish, Indians, Welsh, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, German, Slovenian, Japanese, French, Scottish, and Malaysian—all eating sushi and soy sauce and tempura—all talking to each other—and all American. It is not my intent to describe for you each of the Human Family Reunions from 1976 to the present. I could do it. I have written it all down. And it gives me deep joy to think back on each of them. But I dare not tell you of each. I might by doing so cause you to think less of them than they deserve. It’s like trying to describe a sunrise: the color, the sense of awe, the joy of being alive and able to see. Perhaps someone knows how to do that justice with words. I don’t. So let me tell you about two reunions. I hope by doing so to inspire you to plan you own human family reunion. Thursday, May 5, was the date of one reunion. We met for dinner together at Jennie’s Italian Restaurant in the Columbus Park community of Kansas City. This dinner was actually the final event in our reunion which had begun back on January 25, 14 weeks earlier. This was the day I first met with the 65 students in my cultural anthropology class. My first words to the class were these: “The purpose of this


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

class is to change your life by introducing you to people who are different from you and by teaching you to know and to like these people.” I explained to the class that I would introduce them to 12 groups of people during the semester. “Three of these groups you will meet through the books we read,” I told them. “the other nine groups live in Kansas City and you will meet them in person.” I then introduced them to the 12 groups: The Abkhasians. These people live longer than anybody else on earth. They inhabit an area between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. The Grand Valley Dani. These people live in one of the most hospitable climates (New Guinea) where work is not difficult and the essentials of life (food, water and shelter) come easily. The Lakota of the Rosebud. This is an American Indian community in South Dakota. The Lakota are Sioux Indians. Nearly every aspect of Lakota life—ritual, tradition, language—has been recorded and preserved. Croatian-Americans on Strawberry Hill, Kansas City, Kansas. Students are assigned to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, a Croatian parish. Dave Sachen, organist at the church, is our contact person. Greek-Americans in Kansas City. Students are assigned to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Our contact person is Mary Camburako, a member of the church. Hmong Community in Kansas City, Kansas. The Hmong have recently come to Kansas City from the hills of Laos. Our contact person is Chong Xiong, President and Executive Director of U.S. American

The Human Family Reunion Hmong Association. Students will be assigned to this organization. Native-American community of Kansas City. Students will be assigned to the Heart of America Indian Center. Our contact person is Jane Wray. Italian-Americans in Columbus Park, Kansas City, Missouri. Students are assigned to the Columbus Park Adult Services (senior citizens) and to Jennie’s Restaurant, a marvelous Italian restaurant in Columbus Park. Our contact persons are Mrs. Rosalie Strada, volunteer coordinator of the senior citizens program and Tom Barelli, owner of Jennie’s Restaurant. Jewish community in Kansas City. Students are assigned to Temple B’nai Jehudah. Our contact person will be Robert F. Tornberg, Director of Education at the Temple. Mexican-American community in Kansas City. Students will be assigned to Casa Feliz, a program for Spanish speaking senior citizens. Our contact person is Mrs. Ninfa Garza, Program Coordinator of Casa Feliz. Muslim community in Kansas City. Students are assigned to the Mosque (Masjid) Omar. Our contact person is Imam Furqan, leader of the Masjid. Serbian-American community, Kansas City, Kansas. Students are assigned to St. George Serbian Orthodox Church. Our contact person is the Very Reverend Milan Bajich, pastor of St. George.


I assigned students in groups of 7 to 9 to one of the above communities. Every student was expected to visit each week for a minimum of three hours in the assigned community and to keep


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

written records describing people and places. I explained to the class the importance of their visiting regularly in the communities. “Everything else we do in this class,” I told them, “is designed to help you get maximum learning from the time you spend in the community. It is in your visits to the community that you put into practice what you read and what we discuss in class.” “I know that some of you will feel threatened at having to go off campus to places where you feel ‘out of place.’ I know that. I’ve felt that way. But you must go. There is no other way to learn what you must learn. “Trust me. I have made careful plans for your participation in these communities. When it’s over you’ll be sad to see it end, though right now you may be angry at me for placing such demands on you. But if I didn’t think you could do it, I would not ask. “You see, I have more confidence in you than you have in yourself. I know you can do it. I know you need to do it. It will be the field work you remember long after you have forgotten everything else about this class. “You would never visit these communities if I didn’t demand it. You would never get to know these people had I not arranged it. You could never be the person you will become through learning to like these people if I let you settle for less in this class. “Please go willingly with me on this journey off campus and into ‘the real world.’ It will do marvelous things to you and for you.” It was not to be an easy semester. I would spend much of my time encouraging my students, convincing them that they could do what I was asking and that it was worth doing. Name the emotion: anger, frustration, anxiety, joy, disappointment, heart-break, excitement, boredom,—we felt them all. Fatigue, tears, laughter, apology, excuses—these, too, we experienced as we struggled to like people whose way seemed so foreign. All students were expected from their time in the communi-

The Human Family Reunion


ty to produce a written report patterned after the three books they had read, those that introduced them to the Abkhasians, the Dani, and the Lakota. This was not an easy thing to do for students who never before had been asked to do such a thing. These students suffered at the beginning of our time together from a condition familiar to all of us: too little had been expected of them. In the process of finding out that they could do what I expected, they exposed resources of mind and spirit that nobody ever thought they possessed. By early May these students had spent a total of more than 2000 hours in their assigned communities. They each had acquired a rather long list of people they had met and with whom they had spent time. They had been to weddings, christenings, funerals, dances, dinners. They had worshipped in the community, visited in homes and schools. They were recognized and accepted when seen on the street as someone who had been there before. We had from the beginning planned a farewell banquet as our final activity. Many students at first dreaded the thought of eating with all these strangers and invented reasons they demanded I accept as excuse for their absence. I refused. And as time drew near for the banquet, I heard no more excuses. In their place I began to get requests for permission to invite more people from the communities than we had planned. Large numbers of students had developed close ties. So by the time we met for dinner on May 5 at Jennie’s Restaurant our number had grown to over a hundred, and we were sad to know this was the end of our time together. We seated ourselves around the big horseshoe table, each community of students and residents sitting together for one last visit. And before the evening had ended, we had hugged one another, taken everybody’s picture, and promised to write. Before we began to eat, we bowed our heads for prayer: Jewish, Muslim, Native-American, and Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant). Then came a marvelous Italian dinner: Anti-pasta (peppers, olives, marinated celery, carrots, little trian-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

gles of assorted cheeses, salami, pepperoni), pizza, plates of Italian sausage, and meatballs, and spaghetti, and fried chicken, individual green salads, coffee, tea, and spumoni ice cream for dessert. After dinner we heard from the two students selected by their peers to comment on our semester. I saw tears around the room as they spoke. I had to wipe my own eyes and swallow hard once or twice. Then I announced the names of the three student teams who had done the very best job getting to know their community, followed a moment later by the names of the three individual students who had most excelled. Now came the moment I had looked forward to—and feared: the moment when I had to say something that would explain what we had done and what it meant. It could not be a long speech. By this time we were physically and emotionally drained. Better no speech at all than one too long. To have said nothing, though, would have been to leave a beautiful package untied. Here is what I said:

Edward Everett spoke for two and a half hours at Gettysburg. No body remembers what he said. Abraham Lincoln spoke for three and a half minutes and immortalized the event he described. In length my speech resembles Lincoln’s. I don’t dare hope that my words can make our family reunion as memorable as his words made that war. But if it were to happen, I would have fulfilled in a way I never otherwise can the purpose for which I think I was put on this earth. Until I was legally a man, I had lived in only two towns, one on the flat lands in the shadow of Dallas; the other, nestled among the towering pines and rolling hills of East Texas. I was in heaven. These were my people, and nothing but good ever happened to me there. Years passed before I would look back

The Human Family Reunion


to see that I had spent those marvelous years living in a cage. I never knew a Jew, though somehow and from someone I had come to mistrust and fear them. I went to segregated schools and heard my schoolmates describe the evil things they did to niggers across town. I voted against John Kennedy in 1960 because all around me my family and friends feared that electing a Catholic would usher the Pope into the White House. I witnessed the abuse of Mexican mill workers who lived on the edge of my town, though at the time I was not prepared to call it abuse. It was simply the way things were, the natural order of things. I went to college in my second town. But what I was learning was little more than superstition dressed in its Sunday best. The college was in a cage with me. Ideas, I later realized, were as foreign to that college, as nonwhite, non-Christian, non-Protestant people were to that town. Six years after graduating from that college, I returned for a visit. This college of 3000 students had just that semester admitted its first black student. While walking through the just-built student union, I came across a rest room marked “colored”. My college had spent thousands of dollars to keep its only black student “in his place”. Does the caged bird sing? Is there joy and contentment when one is not free to know people who are different and to be part of their lives? Yes, for me there was. But that was before I knew I was in the cage. It was the music of a single song I sang. I was Johnny One Note. I had never heard the music beyond my cage. Tonight we have all flown our cages. We have momentarily escaped our racial, religious, and cultural cages. To the one beautiful song native to our own cage we momentarily add tonight the marvelous music that comes from many other cages. Not an hour from now all of us will have returned to our cages. We will again make the music of our own people. It will be beautiful.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

We cannot live our life between cages. The reason is that there is no life there. Every human being lives in a cage. It has always been that way. It always will be that way. Some of us venture beyond our cage. This is a rare privilege and takes a special courage. If we make wise use of it, we enrich our own lives and the lives of those who live in our cage with us. I want my students to know that I love them for their willingness to leave their comfortable cage of campus and classroom. They had only my assurance that they would not be harmed when they entered an unfamiliar cage. I am humbled by their trust in me. My students over the past 14 weeks have spent some 2000 hours in nine different cages, all different in some way from their own. They have learned to sing new songs. And though they may not know it yet, they will in years to come sing a sweeter song among their own people. I am not the only teacher of this class present tonight. Each and every one of the community people now present has taught this class. I asked you to open the door of your cage and welcome my students in. I asked you to teach them your ways. And you did. I thank you. Now our 14 week trip is over. We return to our separate cages. Familiar patterns of faith and culture will reassert themselves, and that is as it should be. These are the things that give our life meaning. Until I die, I will be a Christian and a Baptist. You will be Reform Jews, Orthodox Muslims, Catholic or Orthodox Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, or some other faith I have not mentioned. Our being together was not designed to persuade any of us that we should change our faith, only that we could enlarge our acquaintance. We are tonight outside our cage, in an environment that rarely is seen, and never lasts long. I once saw a movie about a place that appeared every 100 years for only a day. Brigadoon, it was called. I’m reminded of that place tonight. If I were planning to make a world, it would be one where we would spend so much time planning events like our gathering

The Human Family Reunion


tonight that we would have no time and no reason for nuclear weapons. Or any weapons. In the name of the One each of us holds holy, I bid you a fond farewell. Individual ones of us will meet in the future, but this group will in a moment disappear, never to be seen again. Only in our minds will we ever again be a part of each other. I will not forget you. Because of you, my cage has a brighter light. I can sing harmony. May it ever be so for us all. Six months now have passed since the Human Family Reunion described above. In just three days, the next reunion will convene. About a dozen who come this time will have been at the last one, but I will be the only person to have been at all the reunions. If ever somewhere my accomplishments in life are listed, I would want this one fact noted. For it makes me feel that my life has purpose to know that except for my planning them, these reunions would never have happened. The family who will be at this reunion had its beginning on a day late in August, just over 10 weeks ago. On this day I met for the first time with the 50 students who were to make up my race and ethnic relations class. Students who came to the reunion in May were in my cultural Anthropology class. Each class has a totally different focus. Anthropology is concerned with the culture of a people, their values and beliefs, their marriage customs, their child rearing habits, their religious beliefs, their leisure activities, food preferences, and all aspects of their daily life. Race relations on the other hand deals with the problems which groups have within and between themselves, problems such as prejudice and discrimination, unemployment, inferior education and housing, the lack of power. The two classes require different reading material and expect of the student a different final product. One thing both classes share, however: the potential for student involvement in the daily life of various communities. Both anthropology and race relations give the students a reason for going into a community and a clear


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

notion of whom they should talk to and what they should want to know. On the first day that I met my race relations students I described for them the reading we would do. “But that’s only the beginning,” I said. “I’m not content to have you read about prejudice and discrimination. It’s not enough that you develop an intellectual awareness of powerlessness.” For about the next hour I then described to the class how it is that some groups of Americans have never shared fully in the opportunity we commonly think is available to all. I told them that we could not possibly do justice in one semester to the many problems of the many groups that rightly could receive our attention. “So,” I said, “I have somewhat arbitrarily selected five groups to focus our attention on. In my judgment these are the five groups you most need to know about.” I then listed the five groups and my reasons for choosing them: Native-Americans (Indians) They were here first and occupy in American life today a unique legal position. Black-Americans They were the only Americans who originally came against their will and the only ones who were enslaved. Mexican-Americans They are the fastest growing American Minority. Jewish-Americans In “Christian” America, Jews are a religious minority and have historically been discriminated against. Women Women outnumber men in America but have less political and economic power.

The Human Family Reunion


At our second class meeting I assigned each student to one of these five groups. From that point forward in that class we would ignore their actual race, religion or sex and would treat them as it is typical in our society to treat people from these five groups. Our classroom was large, so I separated the groups from each other, symbolic of their separation in real life. One part of the room I called the Reservation, and there I put the Indians. I put the Blacks in the ghetto, the women in the kitchen, the Jews in the synagogue, and the Mexicans in the river. (Wetbacks, you know). Some male students were assigned to be women; some blacks were assigned to be white, some whites to be black. No one was given a choice, just as we by birth are not given one. In addition to their new racial, religious or sexual identity, I assigned each student a new personal identity, some famous person about whose life they could read and whose beliefs they were to temporarily adopt. Early in the semester, I took each of the five student groups on an all day visit to that part of Kansas City where “their” people live! Blacks to the black community, Indians to the Indian, and so on. While there, we met community leaders and listened to them tell us about the problem their people face. Every so often in class I asked each student to talk to us “in character”: Crazy Horse, Booker T. Washington, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, Solomon Schechter, and dozens of others. As I listened to the story of their lives and the hopes they had for a better world, I was moved to tears. It was no longer possible for me after a few weeks to think of these young people as my students. They had become the people they portrayed, and together we had bridged time and cultural barriers to focus on the fundamental problems of our collective existence: the problems of education, jobs and housing. As I write these words it is the Wednesday before the Saturday of our next Human Family Reunion. Rather than a banquet, as we had at our last reunion in May, we are planning an allday discussion of the problems we face. We want to see if as Black,


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Mexican, Indian, Jewish, and female Americans we can talk together about our needs for education, jobs, and housing. We have never done this before. We seldom get together across racial, religious and sexual lines, and when we do, we don’t talk about our problems. I think we all understand how easily we fall to fighting among ourselves. So when we do chance to come together, we deliberately focus our attention on fun things, such as food and music and dance. That is a beautiful thing to do. But why do we stop there? All families play together, but now and then we have to talk about our problems. That’s what we will be doing this coming Saturday. I got a phone call the other day from a reporter for the Kansas City Star newspaper. He seemed to think that our planned reunion was newsworthy. I just now went out in the yard and picked up the paper. Here is what he wrote:

CLASS PROVIDES NEW LIFE Students assume minority personalities
The Kansas City Star November 16, 1971 By Mike Garbus Don Combs recalled the beatings he endured years ago in junior high school at the hands of black schoolmates, who were frustrated and angry over the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was hard then for Mr. Combs, raised as a middle-class white, to understand their feelings. Now he says he does. To gain the renewed insight, Mr. Combs, like an actor portraying a character, became black. He and 50 other students are enrolled this semester in a race and ethnic relations class at William Jewell College in Liberty, where a textbook isn’t the only tool of education. Each of the students this semester has taken on the identity of a famous member of one of five minority groups: American

The Human Family Reunion


Indian, Black, Mexican American, Jewish and women. Ironically, Mr. Combs assumed the guise of Mr. King. For him, personal change—the kind to which the late leader was dedicated—has come with learning the role. “I admit to myself that I have a prejudice problem,” said Mr. Combs, 27. But by assuming the identity of Mr. King, “I feel I have been able to get rid of quite a bit of it,” he said. Mr. Combs has shed much of his prejudice after experiencing that of others. He and his classmates began the first three days of the course wearing badges around campus with the name of the personality they had become. Mr. Combs said he asked passers-by to tell him what they would have told the late civil rights leader. Some responded with praises; others voiced unprintable insults. The role-playing helps create the feeling of actually being a minority member, if only for a semester, said class instructor Ed Chasteen, professor of sociology. In and out of class, Mr. Chasteen has had his students talk and behave in character with the personality they’ve researched and assumed. And as Mr. Combs found out, Mr. Chasteen has helped enhance the realism by letting his students feel the sting of prejudice. “I don’t just tell them about prejudice. I pick on them,” said Mr. Chasteen, explaining that he often hurls racial slurs and insults at students. The students verbally assail each other. How effective students have been in assuming their new identities will be judged by minority representatives when the student stage an all-day conference Saturday to debate the status of minority jobs, housing and education. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. at Linwood Multi-Purpose Center in Kansas City. Mr. Chasteen, who is white, said race relations drew his attention as a child growing up in Huntsville, Texas. “I was intrigued with why blacks didn’t go to school with whites,” he said. Boredom nearly prompted him to quit teaching several years ago, until he decided to change his methods. He said he got the


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

idea for students taking on minority identities when he saw materials on famous American Indians while on vacation earlier this year in North Dakota. Mr. Chasteen also remembered actor Hal Holbrook’s portrayal of Mark Twain, and actor James Whitmore spinning yarns as Will Rogers. Along with assuming identities, Mr. Chasteen’s students have visited Kansas City ethnic communities and met with minority spokesmen. “Teaching is everything, not just what goes on in the classroom,” Mr. Chasteen said. Learning to take on the identity of Mr. King was easy because he was so open, Mr. Combs said. But then, added the religion major from Grandview, “So much of King I can see in myself: preaching the Gospel and equality.” Like Mr. King, Mr. Combs is a Baptist minister. He pastors a church near Marshall, MO, on weekends, but the class is doing more for Mr. Combs than pointing up parallels between himself and Mr. King. “I’m going back into the service as a pastor, “ Mr. Combs said. He wants to eventually become a U.S. Navy chaplain after he graduates this spring, then attends seminary. Mr. Combs already has served five years in the Navy, and knows that the armed forces are color-blind. But he said that his race relations class has been practical preparation for a ministry to military personnel. “I want to meet their needs in their cultural background,” he said.

Let all sit down to dinner together
The Kansas City Star Wednesday, April 26, 2006 By Vern Barnet Thirty years ago Ed Chasteen, a professor at William Jewell College, invited folks to a potluck dinner he called a “Human Family Reunion. ”Since then Chasteen’s passion to bring together

The Human Family Reunion


folks of all races, ethnic backgrounds, social status and faiths has continued with such dinners across the country, as well as around Kansas City. These dinners, open to anyone, with everyone invited to speak, have as their “sole (soul) agenda” simply getting to know one another. “Asking who’s right is the wrong question,” Chasteen says. Last week 30 students in his pluralism class were featured at the latest of these upbeat gatherings. Instead of using textbooks for the course, the students met, studied and assumed the identities of 30 members of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and associates. For example, student Roxi Davit assumed the identity of Doug Alpert, the Jewish member of the council. In addition to students visiting in council members’ homes and their places of worship during the term, they kept in touch by e-mail and phone. Each student wrote his or her assumed person’s “autobiography,” and each of the council members visited the entire class. Student Drew Korschot, who became Northern Cherokee Gary Langston, praised the class. “It was like having 30 teachers,” he said. A Christian, Korschot thought that encountering those from other faiths both enriched his horizon and confirmed his own faith. Student Brittany Goldschmidt, alias Baha’i Fran Otto, said the class helped her realize she had filters that kept her from seeing beyond her own background, but now she has discovered faiths she had never even heard of before. Caroline Baughman, pagan faith council member, announced that the council was so inspired by the contact with the students that it has decided to develop a student interfaith council. The council’s Web site is . The evening ended with Chasteen noting former students who returned to campus for this latest edition of the Human Family Reunion. But one of those former students was already on campus: Andy Pratt, now dean of the chapel and vice president of religious ministries at William Jewell. Chasteen’s fictional hero is Don Quixote, who says, “Too


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

much sanity may be madness. And the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is. And not as it should be.” Chasteen comments: “I see the world as it should be. It should be a place where all people are friends. A place where all people feel safe. If the fact the world is not this way causes me to abandon my vision of a better world, then the bad guys have won already. We all endorse one another. We all share a spiritual quest. By becoming friends, we all become our best selves and most surely find our individual and common purpose.”

This test leads you through an assessment of your personal feelings and offers you an objective evaluation of your interpersonal behavior. You might wish to take this test before reading the book. Doing so would identify for you those parts of the book that would be of maximum value to you. After reading the book and practicing some of its recommendations, you might want to take the test again to see how far you have come. There are no right or wrong answers in this test. This test is not designed to show what you don’t know. This test is not designed to make you look bad or to feel dumb and stupid. Even though I don’t know you personally, I respect you as a person. I would never ask you to take a test that would do you harm or cause you to think less of yourself. Rather, this test is designed to help you get a fix on yourself, to determine where you are in relation to other people, and to take whatever action to strengthen or modify those relationships that you consider appropriate. Please think of this test as a compass. It allows you to see the interpersonal direction which your life is taking. I recommend that you take this test before you read this book. You might discover that you already have the skills and the frame of mind which this book teaches. If so, you might want to spend your time reading another book. If, however, you discover from this test that you do not currently possess all these skills and this mind-set, you might want to read this book. But suppose you do discover from this test that you


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

are lacking in some of these things. You might decide that that is something you are willing to live with. Life’s too short to know and do all that might be good. In that case you still would choose not to read this book. If that is your choice, I respect you for it. There was a time in my life when I would have tried to persuade you to read a book simply because I wrote it. That time has passed. I am now willing to trust your judgment. Some 30,000 books a year are printed in the United States. Any one person cannot possibly read more than a tiny fraction of that total number. And the time spent reading one book is by definition time that you can’t be reading another. You will want to choose carefully which books you read and which ones you ignore. The trick is to know which ones you can safely ignore. I recommend that you read a book like you go to the doctor—only when absolutely necessary. Books do for the mind what medicine does for the body. Neither is to be taken indiscriminately. A person is not educated by reading many books any more than a person is made well be taking much medicine. Medicine is disease specific. That means you do not take aspirin to cure cancer or polio vaccine for an earache. So are books disease specific. Some books cure ignorance of mathematics. Some will ease the pain of improper verb forms. Other books are designed to console, inspire, frighten, inform, reform, or any number of other things. To say that you should not read a book if you can avoid it is not the same as saying you should not read a book. You must read if you are to free your minds and spirits of those provincial and prejudiced notions that rise like walls around us all. If well planned, reading can level these walls and make bridges of them. But if done carelessly those walls can rise to unscalable heights and become so massive that the light of reason can never penetrate. I think this book can help you, but you must decide whether or not you will read it. Taking this test can help you make that decision.

Appendix - The Three Step Test


Part A of this test is a list of 25 statements. You are asked to read each one. After you have read each statement, please choose one of the five possible responses listed just below the statement. Please choose the response that most nearly describes how the statement relates to you. After you have chosen the most appropriate response, please draw a circle around it. Remember: There are no right or wrong answers. This test is intended only to help you figure out how you feel about yourself and other people.

1. I think I’m a likable person. never seldom sometimes often all the time

2. I think I understand what makes my friends and neighbors do things. never seldom sometimes often all the time 3. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. never seldom sometimes often all the time

4. I believe it would be better if all Americans had the same religion. never seldom sometimes often all the time 5. I have talked about my death with a friend or family member. never seldom sometimes often all the time 6. I believe that people who have more money have more friends. never seldom sometimes often all the time 7. I read books that inspire me. never seldom sometimes 8. I like to travel. never seldom sometimes often often all the time all the time


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

9. I believe that people of other faiths find as much meaning in theirs as I do in mine. never seldom sometimes often all the time 10. I think I’m an unlucky person. never seldom sometimes often all the time

11. I think about how it would feel to be of another race or religion. never seldom sometimes often all the time 12. I think about unpleasant things that might happen to me. never seldom sometimes often all the time 13. I do things to keep my body in good working order. never seldom sometimes often all the time 14. I think I’m something special. never seldom sometimes often all the time

15. I believe that the United States is a stronger nation because it has people of all races never seldom sometimes often all the time 16. I worry. never seldom sometimes often all the time all the time

17 I think most people are just as honest as I am. never seldom sometimes often

18. I have to ask people what they said before I reply to them. never seldom sometimes often all the time 19. I believe that every single human being is of the same value. never seldom sometimes often all the time 20. I like to talk to people I disagree with. never seldom sometimes often all the time

Appendix - The Three Step Test 21. I try to help other people solve their problems. never seldom sometimes often

131 all the time

22. I have not done it, but I think I could talk about my death with a friend never seldom sometimes often all the time 23. I try to find ways to get to know people. never seldom sometimes often 24. I expect good things from other people. never seldom sometimes often all the time all the time

25. I find my mind wandering when other people are talking to me. never seldom sometimes often all the time 26. I am an honest person. never seldom sometimes often all the time


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

Part B of this test is a list of 11 statements. You are asked to read each one. After you have read each statement, please respond by drawing a circle around either the word “yes” or the word “no” which you find just below the statement. Choose either “yes” or “no” as your answer. Circle the one you choose. 27. I have talked for more than 5 minutes with a friend of the other sex in the past month (no romance involved). Yes No 28. I am willing to look foolish. Yes No 29. Someone of another race calls me by my first name. Yes No 30. I can say hello, good-bye, please and thank you in more than one language. Yes No 31. Ethnic (and similar) jokes make me uncomfortable. Yes No 32. When people tell me things, I make sure I understand them. Yes No 33. I like to eat foods from all over the world. Yes No 34. Some of my good friends hold political beliefs with which I strongly disagree. Yes No 35. I have worshipped with another faith in the past six months. Yes No

Appendix - The Three Step Test


36. I have read and liked at least one book in which a minority (African-American, Mexican-American, Indian-American, etc. was the main character). Yes No 37. I really do like all kinds of people. Yes No


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

1. The more likely you are to think that you are a likable person, the more likely it is that you like other people. 2. It is preferable that you think you understand why your friends and neighbors do what they do. Such thinking on your part indicates a closer and more trusting relationship. 3. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes indicates sensitivity on your part. The more often, the greater the sensitivity. 4. The less likely you are to believe this, the easier you will find it to like people who are not like you. 5. Either extreme on this question indicates possible problems in relating to people. 6. People who believe this are likely to have difficulty in judging others based on their personal characteristics. 7. Doing this indicates that you have a pretty healthy estimate of your own worth, and the worth of others. 8. Whether or not you have traveled much, the fact that you like to travel, or would like to if you could, indicates that you feel at ease among different people. 9. This belief is one of the most direct expressions of the worth you see in people who are different from you. The more likely you are to believe this, the more likely you are to like different kinds of people. 10. Most people have thought this at some time. To think it very much, though, implies a negative view of self which makes it difficult to relate to other people. 11. Such thinking as this is likely in a person who relates well to different kinds of people. 12. All people do this. To do it often, however, robs the one who does it of needed emotional energy and makes it unlikely that such a person will get very involved with other people.

Appendix - The Three Step Test


13. People who keep their bodies in shape and as much under their control as possible are thereby expressing that fundamental belief in self which makes it then possible to develop relationships to others. 14. The more you think this, the better for you and for others. 15. Such a belief indicates a commitment to a diversity of people. 16. All people worry. It isn’t likely, though, that people who do it often have developed the skills and frame of mind which make it possible to relate well to people. 17. If you choose “often” of “all the time” as your response to this statement and to statement number 26, the odds are good that you are able to relate well to other people. 18. It is doubtful that any of us could pick “never” in response to this statement. “Seldom”or “sometimes” would indicate good listening skills and the strong possibility that you are able to like different kinds of people. 19. The more likely you are to believe this, the easier it will be for you to cultivate relationships with a variety of people. 20. If you choose “never” or “seldom” as your response, you probably will not develop relationships with a variety of people. 21. “Never” or “seldom” are not desirable responses if you wish to develop closer ties to different people. 22. This is a companion statement to number 5. If you were able to choose “sometimes” or “often” as your response to either, you probably can relate well to different types of people. 23. The most desirable response to this question is “all the time”. Any other choice signals skill development still to be accomplished. 24. The goal here is also to be able to choose “all the time” as your response. It is the only response that is totally sufficient to support your moving about among a variety of people.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

25. Our goal is to be able to say “never”. Probably the very best we can truthfully say, however, is “seldom”. If you could not choose one of these two, you have work to do before you can develop friendships with a variety of people. 26. “Often” or “all the time” in response to this statement indicates the self evaluation necessary to trust other people.

27. Men and women find it easier to be friends with those of their own sex. If you could answer “yes” to this question, you have made some effort to bridge the gap. 28. A “yes” answer means that it will be easier for you to move among people whose way of looking at life is different from your own. 29. A “yes” answer probably means that you have developed friendships across racial lines and can with minimum effort develop more. 30. A “yes” answer indicates that you consider interpersonal skills important and that you have made some effort to acquire such skills. 31. A “yes” answer reveals a sensitivity on your part which will support your efforts to relate to people who are different from you. 32. A “yes” here indicates that you take other people seriously and value what they have to tell you. 33. If you could say “yes,” you have further reason to believe that you can learn to like many different types of people. 34. A “yes” here also indicates your ability and willingness to accept people who differ from you. 35. To answer “yes” to this question implies two things about you: that you attach some importance to a religious faith; and that you make some effort to relate to those of other faiths. 36. Most books are not of this kind. If you answered “yes,” it

Appendix - The Three Step Test


implies that you went to some effort to find the book and that you possess the empathy required to read it and to like it. 37. If you can honestly say “yes” to this, understanding all that is involved, then you probably have said “yes” to the first 10 questions. If you have not said “yes,” you may want to think further about your answer to this question.


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

SCORING Part A and Part B together contain 37 items. The profile below lists the responses which are likely to be chosen by those people who currently possess the skills and mind-set required to like a wide variety of people. The scoring system below can be used to judge your current status relative to people who are different from you.
Prof ile of the Person Able to Like a Variety of People

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

PART B Statement Response
27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

often, all the time often, all the time often, all the time never, seldom sometimes, often never, seldom sometimes, often, all the time often, all the time all the time never, seldom ometimes, often, all the time never, seldom often, all the time often, all the time often, all the time seldom, sometimes often, all the time seldom, sometimes all the time sometimes, often sometimes, often, all the time sometimes, often often, all the time all the time never, seldom often, all the time

Appendix - The Three Step Test If Your Score Is 37-34


Then You Are: Highly skilled. Little need to read this book other than for further encouragement and reinforcement. Doing well. This book will make a major contribution to your further development. Above average. This book will make a major contribution to your further development. Developing. This book is essential if you are to make further progress. Not doing well. Please read this book immediately. You will like yourself and other people more.





Now That You Have Read the Book I hope that you feel ready now to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything. I hope you now live in a world without boundaries. I hope every time you go somewhere, you find you are already there. In the game of life, may you always have the home court advantage. WORLD CLASS PERSON Every few years thousands of hard-bodied young people come together at some place on the planet, both sexes, all colors and sizes and shapes, speaking hundreds of different languages, all drawn by their dreams of Olympic gold, having only one thing in common: their status as world-class athletes.. Now that you have read this book and taken to heart its mes-


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

sage, you are on your way to becoming a World Class Person, one who can go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. Such people are as far above and beyond the ordinary as the Olympic Athlete is the couch potato. Red and yellow, black, brown and white Christian, Buddhist and Jew Hindu, Baha`i, and Muslim too All are precious in our sight This is the creed by which the World Class Person lives. The average person will be as amazed and awed by the World Class Person as by the World Class Athlete. The dedication and discipline necessary to achieve either status is more widely available than we will ever know. Mistakenly believing that only a select few can attain these heights, the masses unnecessarily surrender this high ground and resign themselves to half-lives in the valley of the shadow. Hell must surely be to realize when life is past what it could have been had we only known. If it is to be It is up to me The World Class Person lives and dies by these ten two letter words. It’s a great big wonderful world filled with people who need to know you. The world can’t do without you. Go get it.

September 11, 2001
Every word you have read so far in this book was written before September 11, 2001. All that follow were written after.

Written on Friday, September 14, 2001
The words I want will not come. It’s Friday evening now, and I’ve been struggling since Tuesday morning to say what I feel. I was in shock for all of Tuesday. All day Wednesday I was angry. I wanted to hit somebody. By Thursday I was numb and so empty inside that my thoughts echoed. This morning I came early to my word processor, but the words would not come. I went for a ride on my bicycle. Ordinarily words flow from me like sweat when I ride. Not today. Nothing! Back home I fixed lunch for my wife when she came at noon from our church. I read for a while. Checked my e-mail. Read messages from everywhere about last Tuesday. I went for another ride. I stopped to visit my six-year-old grand daughter. She made me smile. Now I am back at my computer. The words still aren’t coming, but I’ve got to force them out. Some of the e-mail I read today was from people who look to HateBusters for guidance. Christina asked, “Could you suggest what might be best in this situation?” Mom called to tell me her church had a prayer service. “What do HateBusters plan?‚” she asked. Maybe if I just start writing something will come of it. My mind, my heart and my soul are hearing so many warring voices. They are all inside my head. They push and shove and hit each other and call each other unkind names. They tumble over each other in a mad rush to get out. They want me to speak them or write them down. But the moment I think I’ve decided to give voice to one of them, another yells in my ear and calls me a fool. Yet it is eerily quiet in my house. I have turned off the TV and


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

put aside the paper. I have seen enough pictures. Heard enough talking heads. Read enough headlines. Maybe too many of each. I can’t process it all. But one of those internal voices is screaming at me: “Enough already! Make some sense of all this. That’s your job. Just do it!” These are the times that try men’s souls. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. These somber sayings have been with us for longer than any of us can remember, testifying to the fact that September 11, 2001 was not the first dark day to descend upon a people. Nor will it be the last. When conditions come that try our souls, panic is our mortal enemy. The anger and fear that naturally and immediately accompany a wound inflicted without warning must be allowed to pass. Any action taken when anger and fear over ride our reason will only cause us more harm. Thousands of innocent people were murdered. How do we respond? Do we kill innocent people without warning? If so, how are we different from those who killed first? We are an open society. Justice and the rule of law govern our behavior. Mercy is taught by all of our faiths. We must not allow those who would kill our people also to kill our commitment to justice and our longing for mercy. On an average day in an average town our attachment to justice and mercy comes easy. But the test of our true commitment comes when our souls are tried. The kind of people we are will be revealed in the days just ahead.

Written September 11, 2005
I ride a bicycle. Thousands of miles every year. For the past two years some of us riders have been meeting at 7:30 every Saturday morning at the bike shop in Liberty. We ride to nearby towns for breakfast. Because I’m slow, they always let me leave first. A few minutes later, they all pass me. And I’m last. I’m now riding sweep. That’s the name we give to the rider who comes last and stops to help any other rider who has had a problem. Now everybody in my country has had a problem. When those planes hit those towers, our world exploded. We no longer feel safe. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And we don’t know how to

September 11, 2001


put him together again. And I’m riding sweep. When the state of Louisiana embarrassed itself back in 1988 by electing a member of the KKK to their state legislature, the governor invited my students and me to come to Louisiana and help the state redeem itself. My students and I started HateBusters and went to Louisiana. I was riding sweep. When bigots came with their hate signs to our campus to protest a black speaker, I ran to my office and made myself a sign and ran to join them. My sign said, “These Guys Are Nuts.” The crowd began to laugh. The bigots got in their cars and went home. I was riding sweep. When other bigots painted racist messages on a church in a nearby town, I organized a caravan of all races and religions to drive there for a rally. I was riding sweep. When someone burned a cross in a black man’s yard in my town, I called a march from our campus to our town square, wearing our HateBusters shirts and chanting “Up with people, down with hate.” I was riding sweep. When black churches got hate letters, I organized a love letter campaign that brought thousands of letters from all over the world offering love and support for those churches. I was riding sweep. Those things were easy. They didn’t seem easy at the time. But what to do came easily to me then. No sooner had they happened than I just knew what I should do. Instantly and intuitively I understood what to do. And I did it. I rode sweep. But it has been almost four years since 9-11. And what have I done? What have I said? What help have I been? I did go to Ground Zero for a week as a Salvation Army volunteer to help feed the police and firefighters who were recovering bodies. But I’ve had no answer for those who sent me emails and asked what HateBusters could do. Four long years of grappling with 9-11 and I have not thought of even one specific action that any of us as private citizens might take to redress this tragedy. My mind keeps returning to a decision each of us could make that could deliver us individually from the mind numbing and soul killing tension that all of us are in danger of learning to live with. If we learn to live in fear, we will have died in


How to Like People Who Are Not Like You

all ways that really matter long before we draw our final breath. The coward dies many times. The brave die but once. If we are not to die a little bit with every headline announcing the latest inhumanity, we must resolve to make ourselves into what I call World Class Persons. By my own definition, a World Class Person is one who can go anyplace at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. I must be honest with you and admit that I am not a World Class Person. I want to be. I’m making myself move in that direction. Down that road is the only place I see life. I cannot live in a world where I fear the people I see on the street, in the paper or on my TV screen. I cannot build a fort around me to keep me safe. I’m a bridge builder. By training and by disposition. That’s who I am. And if I cannot be who I am, why do I want to live? A bridge is of no value unless there is a road coming to it and going from it. The WCP Highway is under construction. The events on the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City make the building of that road almost impossible. But they also make it that much more necessary. In Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote’s friends come to him. They say to him, “Wickedness wears thick armor.” They think he is a fool. They mean to discourage him. He replies, “And for that you would have me surrender? Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times. Still must a man arise and again do battle. For the effort is sublime.” The effort to become a World Class Person promises deliverance from the paralyzing fears that seize our minds and hearts and make us cruel. As we travel the WCP Highway we meet others who make the journey. And if we come upon one who has been wounded, we can be the Good Samaritan. We’re riding sweep. May peace, power, purpose and joy go with us every day and all the way. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I will travel this day on the World Class Person Highway. I will minister to those I meet along the way whose journey has been interrupted. I’m riding sweep.

Invite us and we will come. Join us and we will win. Until we get to know each other, who’s right is the wrong question. Red and Yellow, Black, Brown and White Christian, Buddhist and Jew Hindu, Baha`i and Muslim, too All are precious in our sight To oppose hate wherever we find it and in whatever form it takes. To teach others how to oppose hate and why they should. To become World Class Persons able to go anywhere at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe and teach others this skill. Box 442 Liberty, Missouri 64069 Phone or fax: 816/803-8371 e-mail:

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Invite us and we will come. Join us and we will win.

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