What’s your collar?

Before you go any further I want you to watch this video. No cheating, no skipping ahead. Go watch it. Now. Really, watch it. All of it.I will wait for you!

Did you watch it? All 12 minutes and 21 seconds? If you didn’t watch it all then go do it now!

I’m going to guess you’ve watched it now. So I want to ask you a question about it. What is your collar?

In the video those kids were given a collar based on the color of their eyes at different points in the exercise. A random, useless designation of worth based on the color of their eyes. This was an amazing exercise in understanding discrimination. But I want to take this further than a discussion of race. I want to talk about many other factors including the collar we place on others and the one we place on ourselves.

Everyone does this. You see a very young woman with a baby getting food from the food bank or using food stamps. We put the “entitlement” collar on her and roll our eyes at her. But did you realize this girl was in foster care for years? Bounced around from home to home, even group homes, after having been raped repeatedly by her mother’s boyfriend? And that when she thought she had found someone to love her he got her hooked on drugs against her will and forced her to have sex with his buddies in exchange for more drugs? And that she finally escaped and is trying to survive on her own, all before she was able to vote? But we see one snippet of her life, a short window, and put a collar on her.

What about that woman dragging a suitcase behind her and a huge bag. She looks like she is half asleep, her hair is unwashed and she obviously didn’t sleep in a bed last night. Did you put the “homeless” collar on her? Did it even occur to you she might have spent the last 3 days on a bus to get home, with no access to showers or a bed?

I just spent 2 days doing just this. Traveling by bus with no access to a shower or a bed. I’m pretty sure I looked pathetic and homeless by the time I got off the bus on the way out to my destination. It was hot, I was sweaty, and I’d been wearing the same clothes for over 30 hours. Thankfully I didn’t scare the Lyft driver away when he picked me up and took me to the hotel. I traveled by bus because I didn’t want to use credit right now to pay for this trip. I wanted to use the money I had saved up for it and that didn’t cover a plane trip. So I chose a bus. I could have driven, but I get lost easily in unfamiliar places and I wanted to be brave, try something I had never done before. I chose to take a risk and experience something important. I learned so much about people and the world I can only begin to share them in this first blog.

Before this trip I had prided myself that I was good at not assuming things about people. But this trip helped me see I still have a long way to go. Some of the most interesting and kind people I met were people I might have made assumptions about simply because I am not used to seeing them. I saw a group of “kids” who normally I would have thought, ugh, they will probably cuss and be loud the whole trip. I was SO WRONG! They were a great group of kids headed to Job Corps and were really nice. They were excited, happy, and determined to make the most of the chance they were getting. They made sure some of the older people on the bus were taken care of, watched out for each other and their enthusiasm was infectious.

We have all done this. We do it every day. To the cashier at the drive through when you grab a coffee, to the well dressed man in the expensive car next to us at the stop light. We put a collar on everyone we see, good or bad, right or wrong. I want you to start thinking about collars, what collar did you put on someone when you first saw the tiny snippet of their life?

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