What do we see when we look at others’ faces? We notice the outward appearance, whether we wish to or not. Skin color, eye color, clothing, and so on, are apparent features that are obvious and difficult to pretend we do not see. What we cannot see or know from the outward appearance is a person’s heart. A person’s life experiences, soul, and being are not obvious from the outside. How can we learn these to appreciate the differences among us? How do we begin a dialogue and enter into the conversation of diversity that is occurring in our nation? How do we bring that conversation into our everyday lives?

We can learn by asking questions, by spending time with one another, by listening to one another. We can serve as an example by befriending those who do not look exactly like us. In that way, we practice our heart muscles—a heart that learns to see others the way Jesus did.

I was born in India, grew up in the deep south in Alabama, and now live in the upper Midwest. As a minority growing up in a small southern town, I knew what it felt like to look different to other people on the outside, but feel the same on the inside. Growing up in the same place wasn’t enough to make me “one of them.” When people in my small town looked at me, they didn’t see me as Southern. To them, I was Indian, but I felt Southern.

As I grew older, I wrestled with my roots, my heritage, my current place of belonging, and my identity. I wrestled with God. Who was I? Why was I born elsewhere and then brought here? I was both grateful and confused. After all these years, to make the story short (very short), God drew me to him and gave me true identity: I was his beloved child.

 

So, do you speak English?

You speak English so well.

What brought you here?

 

Look there’s an Indian,

Over there.

Me: Look, there’s an American,

Over there.

 

I know an Indian, too.

He works at the gas station.

Do you know him?

 

I love Indian food.

So, what is in curry?

My favorite is Chicken Tikka.

 

Where are you from?

I think she’s Mexican.

No, she’s Hawaiian.

She’s Indonesian.

 

What does the red dot mean?

 

Do you ever go back?

Do you have family here?

My best friend in college was Indian.

 

What Bollywood movie should I watch?

I love the clothes.

Where can I get the clothes?

 

Are you Hindi?

What part of India are you from?

Me: Have you heard of it?

No…

 

What does the red dot mean?

 

My son is going to a Diwali party.

What should he wear?

What should he do?

 

You don’t speak Hindi?

You bring the rice.

What language do you speak?

 

Did you see what she was wearing?

Is it enough gold?

Your skin is too dark

Your skin is too light to be…

 

What do you do?

What is your degree?

How much do you earn?

 

You should work.

No, it’s ok to stay home.

I left my Ph.D.

It’s ok for you, too.

 

It’s ok for you.

 

What does the red dot mean?

Prasanta Verma
Prasanta is a poet, writer, blogger, occasional artist, and aspiring author. She is passionate about making the way for diverse voices and understanding culture and background in the context of faith. She was born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills in the southern U.S., and currently digs out of snow piles in the upper Midwest. She holds an MBA, an MPH in Epidemiology, is a home schooling mom of three (with one in college and two still at home), and currently teaches and coaches team policy debate to high school students. She has been published at Tweetspeak Poetry and The High Calling/Patheos. You can follow her on her blog, Twitter @pathoftreasure, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, or Facebook page (Prasanta Verma, Writer).

10 Comments

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    1. Thank you, Stephanie! The comments at the end are actually part of a poem and are a conglomeration of many comments I’ve heard through the years. And truthfully, I do encounter many people who look beyond the exterior. I appreciate you and your voice here!

    1. Hi Bev, these comments are ones I’ve heard over the years. 🙂 And, I truly am thankful, as they’ve made me aware of the need for empathy in my own life and how I view others. Thank you for your comment!

  1. Prasanta, your voice and perspective serve as a guide as we encounter and interact with others who know, or have yet to discover, that every ethnicity has been invited to declare that they, too, are called “a child of God”.

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