Growing up in Utah and being a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints I was very much the norm. I lived in a neighborhood and on a street with lots of other members of the Mormon church, and if you weren't......you knew about Mormons. I never experienced an awkward silence when I mentioned beliefs that I had, and never experienced misconceptions or prejudice about my religion.
Living away from Utah for the past eight years I have experienced life differently. Many people in Pennsylvania have heard little about the Mormon church and the things they have heard are often simply not true. I have often felt it is a great opportunity and responsibility for me and my family to stand up for what we believe, and has strengthened us and our testimonies.
Just yesterday my family had an experience that we can hopefully learn from. Before I write what I think we can learn I will relay the experience. We have a street full of families. It has been wonderful for my kids to have other children there age they can play with, and have fun with. Within five houses of ours there is a total of 13 children under the age of 10. Although very common in Utah, this is quite rare where we live. It has been a blessing.
One of the families that lives just three doors down has distanced themselves from us almost immediately since the time that we moved in. They have always been kind and polite, but have really kept their distance. My children ask their children to play often, and many times are told no. I have always had a bit of a suspicion it was because we were Mormon, but have tried to ignore.
They have a son Mikey's age who Mikey really enjoys and likes. They ride bikes together a lot lately, and both have a recent passion for Lego's. Just last night Timmy came over and asked to play with Mikey. They were in our front living room putting together Lego's, and within five minutes of playing the older sister came to tell Timmy that he can't play in our house. This has happened often before. After the sister left and Timmy was gathering his things I finally asked Timmy why he isn't allowed to play at our house. Timmy, 5 years old, responded "because my Mom and Dad say you are not Christian..... you are Mormon".
Mike and I both just stood there jaws dropped. I almost felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. Alyssa who was in the room said "Christian.....what does that mean?" I replied "Christian's are people that believe in Jesus Christ." Alyssa stood confused and replied "Mom lets just go over and tell his parents that we do believe in Jesus Christ. Then Timmy can stay and play with Mikey." I looked at her, smiled and replied......."we will have to work on that".
If it were only that simple world peace would be attainable.
I can not control what people say or think about me and my beliefs. I can only control what I can learn, and how I can respond to teach my children. I learned that my testimony of the church digs deep into my soul. I could barely go to sleep last night because it hurt to think something so precious to me (my beliefs), could be so misconstrued in people eyes. I am a Christian, and I know it with every being in my soul.
I learned that I will not condone my children to not play with someone just because they are different than me. It is not fair to my child. It will only make me less of a Christian to not allow my child to be friends with others of different beliefs. I don't have to condone others behaviors, but I also can't be quick to judge.
I learned that prejudice is still very much alive today in all walks of life. I have known this, but yesterday I felt it. It hurt, and was not fun. I learned that I will stand for freedom, and for equality. I will stand for tolerance of other races,and religions..... the basis of which this nation was formed.
I learned that I will continue to try and teach my children to have a testimony of the truth. So when they are confronted with prejudice they will be strong and valiant. It is my responsibility as a parent to teach them this young, because they will experience hard things young.
I learned I am not as mature as I would have hoped I would be. The first thing that came to my mind was to go over to Timmy's house and tell his parents exactly what I thought about their ideas and prejudices. I also thought of a hilarious practical joke I really contemplated. As supporters of Mitt Romney we have about 20 of his signs that we are responsible to distribute. The thought occurred to put all 20 on their front lawn for their morning surprise. I have a feeling they wouldn't be thrilled.
I learned lessons of life that are hard, but important to learn and to teach my children. Things happen for a reason, and we need to learn and gain strength from them. Not allow them to make us bitter and angry. So enough off my soap box. I still haven't decided how I am going to handle the situation. A friend from church suggested stopping by with a plate of cookies, and the proclamation to the family explaining that we are Christian whether they want to believe it or not. Hmmmmm......I will keep all posted.