I have been thinking quite a bit lately about Us and Them. Three simple words. Three simple words with the power to divide. Three seemingly benign words that can tear apart a community or a country. When used separately they lose all their power; but string these three words together and they have the ability to ignite protests, start wars, topple nations, and lead to mass murder of entire people groups.
I remember many years ago sitting at a table in Panera with my two sweet toddlers in tow. As I sat wiping food from their faces and picking up crumbs from the floor, I overheard two beautifully dressed women talking about SAHMs. As I shushed my children I turned my ear to listen to their conversation. I was so curious to find out what a SAHM was. After a few minutes of eavesdropping, I learned that I was actually a SAHM, a Stay At Home Mom. And the women continued to laugh and make jokes about SAHMs. My blood began to boil as I sat there in my SAHM uniform – yoga pants a tank top and unbrushed hair. My mind filled with all the reasons I was better than them. How dare they think themselves superior to me just because they work outside the home and wear fancy suits to work. And in the midst of my anger I heard one of the women say, with a crackle in her voice,”I would do anything to be a SAHM.” And the wall of separation I had resurrected with pride came crumbling down as I realized it wasn’t SAHM’s vs. Working Moms, it wasn’t Us and Them. We were just three women, three moms, sitting in Panera having lunch.
What is that saying? When you are pointing your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. Yes, I’m ashamed to say it, I am guilty as charged. I would like to say I am part of the Us that doesn’t see the world in terms of Us and Them, but the truth is, I am Them. The truth is, we are all Them. And it’s these artificial boundaries, these baseless judgments, these dangerous prejudices, that keep us divided and halt forward progress.
This past US Presidential Election was a clear example of Us and Them. And many of us drew a line in the sand, ended friendships, wrote horrible things on social media. Years of history with family and loved ones were wiped away with a single vote. Each side convinced they were right, each side building higher walls, each side hiding behind false beliefs of superiority and pride.
And now as our community wrestles with school rezoning I’m starting to hear the rumblings of Us and Them. And it’s easy to divide ourselves by schools and neighborhoods, and socio-economic status, and test scores and skin color. It’s easy to fall back on what is safe and familiar. I know change is hard and the outcomes are unknown, but I see these invisible walls being erected, and they are cemented in fear and pride, and held together by division and prejudice. And I’m convicted because I share in some of these fears, I can so easily slip into the mind frame of Us and Them.
I keep thinking about that day in Panera. How easily I was able to place judgment on those women. How easily my blood boiled and I became angry. How easily I put up a wall and made a determination that I was better than them. How easily I decided it was Us and Them. And then I can hear that crackle in her voice, that sound when you are holding back tears. And the wall that divided us came crumbling down as I realized we were all just moms, me in my yoga pants and them in their fancy suits. Yes, we were different, but not better than. And it wasn’t Us and Them at all, it was WE. And WE are always stronger together.