Using My Voice

I didn’t write anything last week because I’m neck-deep in writing two papers about refugees for my master’s degree. I took two classes this semester against my better judgment (along with working a full-time job) but when this semester ends next month, I’ll only have two classes left to finish (plus two degree papers and the required comprehensive exams). I can almost taste freedom. I began this journey in 2013 when I entered the TESOL graduate certificate program, but it was only last summer that I made the decision to go for the Master’s in Applied Second Language Acquisition. A masters has been on my bucket list for many years but I didn’t really think I’d ever actually do it. But here I am. Doing it. It’s pretty painful right now, but that will just make it sweeter in the end.

I had an amazing opportunity yesterday that I want to share. Earlier in the week a friend messaged me and asked if I’d be interested in speaking to her social work class. I’m quite an introvert, actually and speaking in front of a group is not usually comfortable for me, even though I do have some experience. When my friend mentioned the subject matter she wanted me to share, I immediately said yes. She wanted me to share with her students about my experiences with Muslims. I am passionate about this subject matter. Because I work at a University with people from all over the world, sometimes I forget that I was 50 years old before I met my first Muslim friend. And sometimes I forget that some other people from the Midwest U.S.A. haven’t met or interacted with people who happen to be Muslim.

So I took the day off work and went to visit with a group of students about my friendships and experiences and how much my Muslim friends have taught me and reshaped my thinking about people who are different from me. I was actually amazed myself to see the change in my attitude over the past 4 or 5 years. I am so grateful and a much richer person because of the friendships I have with people who didn’t grow up the same way I did. I have met people from other religions beside Islam as well that I didn’t know about before and I have dear friends who hold to no religious beliefs at all. These people have all made me a better person and I’d dare say even a better Christian because of how their points of view and their very presence in this world and in my world has caused me to reexamine all that I believe and what I consider to be truth.

It breaks my heart when I see hateful articles about Muslims. I feel pain when people make sweeping statements about people they have never met. I try to keep my time on Facebook to a minimum because I grieve every time I see the hateful rhetoric. I know there are evil, hateful people in the world. But they exist in every society. There are hateful, evil people who label themselves Christian. And I’m sure there are people in the world who make sweeping statements about Christians because of it. I can’t control what my friends say or think or believe about Muslims. All I can do is use my voice to tell a different story. And I just hope there are people who are willing to listen.

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