In 7th grade my new school’s classmates were at Louisville Country Day – an all-boys college-prep private school.  Some I had known before; many started together in kindergarten; a few became my close friends.  Like most adolescents I didn’t feel I fully fit in.  My Enneagram 2 personality had interesting reactions from the boys and my 3-wing competition for success was fierce.

People at church became my people as I grew closer to my youth group friends.  I led two different lives – school and church.  Church was where I was accepted, became a leader, and met the girls I’d date through high school.

Our youth group leaders were students at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  One would later become my professor of New Testament Greek and preaching when I went to Union Seminary in Richmond.  Another kept me alive as he taught me about life.

When my parents traveled for two weeks, he and his wife stayed with me.  On a hike he kept me alive by seeing a resting copperhead snake in my path and throwing me over it just before I stepped on it.  They taught me about life by how they lived.  Their tiny seminary apartment, the food they cooked, and the way they lived was simply different than all the huge houses I’d visited, the feasts I’d eaten, and the country club life I’d experienced.

They introduced me to seminary debt for a career whose rewards are not financial.  Whether by circumstance or choice, they showed me how to live simply so others can simply live.  I’d overhear the gospel when friends dropped by from their caring community.  I caught a glimpse of being fully committed to something greater than myself.   As I was beginning to discover me, I lived with and learned from a couple making a path on a very different road than I’d known.

What is your experience of learning about differences in people, cultures, and ways of living?  Who showed you a road less traveled by?  When did you first learn that less is more?  How do you understand and appreciate differences in others?

2 thoughts on “Simply Different

  1. My dad was a Westminster College Beta, and proud of the legacy as his two older brothers were Betas also. One evening, my folks were going to a dinner party and dad picked up the babysitter for my brothers and me. He brought home Heidi. Heidi was a Westminster dad got to know through a class he taught. Heidi was a Japanese student who spent seemingly endless hours teaching us origami. He sat with us many times during a semester and we couldn’t wait to see him again and again. Going forward, I was about 14 or 15 (early 1970’s) and I walked to high school every day. The kids from the west side of the town always walked past my parents home on their way to school.. It was on the way. Many of those students were good friends of mine and I would often times walk with them. One day, my mother sat me down and told me that I could never marry outside of my race. I took that as a slap against my friends, which it was not. It was a practical matter for my mother. There was still racial unrest in my town and a sister (white) of one of my classmates was dealing with the completed suicide of her older sister. The older sister was in love with a young black man and they were found, arm in arm, in a car in his garage. The world in Fulton, MO was so not ready for interracial relationships. Still not getting the gist of the conversation with mom, I asked if I could marry a Japanese person…after all, they had a lighter skin tone than many black people. Mom did not know how to speak of culture, but tried to explain that people from different cultures sometimes lived and believed differently than we did. She never brought up the subject to me again, though I imagine that conversations she had with her pastor have long been taken to the grave. Today I am glad that ideas of culture and race and being discussed to one degree or another.

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