Who remembers the children’s book clubs that existed at the same prevalence as Columbia House records? When my children were babies, I aspired to build a vast library of books for them and joined one of the clubs where I could quickly acquire my library for a low, low price. Many of those first books were from Dr. Seuss. In fact, they were many of the same books I read as a child.
The other day I was thinking about those books, in particular, the Sneetches. I’m not sure why The Sneetches came to mind, but it stuck. Dr. Seuss had a way of teaching children societal lessons in subtle ways. The Sneetches was written in 1961 about a society of bird like creatures. Some of the Sneetches had stars on their bellies and the others had plain bellies. In the Sneetch society, social class lines were firmly drawn based upon whether they had “stars upon thars…” (A line that sticks in my head more than 45 years later!) The star bellied sneetches fancied themselves better than the plain bellied ones. Along came Sylvester McMonkey McBean who, with his magical machine, was able to put stars upon the plain bellies. Of course, he could also remove stars, and, as you can imagine, the original star bellies wanted to continue being different, and had their removed. What ensues is stars on, stars off, until no one can remember if they had a star when it all began! It’s then that they begin to see they were never that different in the first place and a peaceful, unified society is formed.
Dr. Seuss’ book was a message about what was happening in society at the time. The 1960’s were tumultuous as the country struggled toward legislation providing equality. Yet, piece of paper the legislation was written upon did not magically change people’s views, only in Dr. Seuss’ magical Sneetch land could that happen. More than 50 years after that legislation, the country continues to struggle among lines of distinction, race and otherwise.
In no way would I suppose to suggest a magical solution for the systemic issues some face every day. It seems to me though that if we could remember that each of us is fundamentally the same that we could influence the conversation around it. In so many ways we look for and draw lines based on difference, and we need to seek out better ways to approach each other.
I particularly look at the church and the language many within those bodies have adopted. If we strip back to the original message, it’s love God and love others as yourself. It’s not, love others if they also happen to believe the same as you. It’s not love others if they fit your demographic…if they follow your faith tradition…if they are straight…if they serve, and give, and memorize scripture. One could easily keep going on the list that is created around what has sometimes become more a membership in a club than a demonstration of the love God intends for each and every one of us. But look at the commandment again, love God, love others as yourself. That’s it. No if’s, and’s or but’s. No stars on your belly or not. Love.
Every person you encounter has a piece of that love within them. Irrespective of what they look like on the outside. Every.single.person. It may be hidden with hurt, and pain but it’s there. We may not be in relationship with every person, but we can choose to love. And to seek to understand their experience, their world, so that we can draw closer.
We can show up as our authentic self, boldly showing that the love God has for us and instills within us has no boundaries. Can you imagine? It’s what we’re created to do, to be, and it would be a magical society indeed.