Our family is Korean-American, children of immigrants. We’re what the media would call “devout, evangelical Christians.” And we have a son who is disabled, non-verbal with autism and ADHD. Especially planted in the middle of hyper-excellent Silicon Valley, we’re more than acquainted with feeling like An Other.
These are some of our friends and neighbors, classmates of my children.
C comes from a white, American Mormon family, originally from Utah. Last month at a playdate at C’s house, the kids watched a movie that ended up having a bad word in it. C’s mom immediately shut off the movie and texted the other moms to apologize. We all texted back, confessing that our kids probably all heard that word already. No big deal.
A’s family is Indian. They had us over for lunch, complete with homemade chicken tandoori and naan, freshly baked from their own tandoor oven (!) Now, we can never go back to Wonder White. We love naan because of them. We love them (more) because of naan.
M’s family is also Indian. They invited us to a massive bash to celebrate Diwali, the high holy day for Hindus (we had to decline because our older son with autism doesn’t do well with big parties.) Every Diwali evening, our neighbors spill out into the street to light sparklers. They are magnanimous, generously sharing their sparklers with this Korean American Christian boy who doesn’t talk or even say thank you. My son loves Diwali because he loves sparklers, which means I love Diwali because he loves sparklers.
Then there is Z, our second son’s BFF/Chief Tormentor. His family are Pakistani and live a few houses down. We’ve been car pooling for three years. Z’s family are Muslim (the boys have some pretty amusing theological discussions) who eat strictly Halal. Gelatin is forbidden. I sometimes text Z’s mom to get the OK on certain playdate snacks (Skittles are legit. Gummy bears are not.)
Last winter break, they traveled to Mecca and didn’t return by the time school resumed. Their house sat empty a week after school began. The media had been reporting a spike in hate crimes towards Muslims, so I panicked. Something must have happened to them.
I called the school registrar, only to find out they’d notified the school they’d be gone an additional week. We had a good laugh about it afterwards.
Z’s mom once gave me an eyeshadow set for Christmas, even though they don’t do Christmas (and I don’t know how to do eyeshadow on flat, Asian eyes.) Another time, she asked me how Christian churches adapt the Bible to teach our children. I gave her a set of children’s Bibles, so she could get ideas on how to modify their sacred text for hers.
Last weekend, Z’s family bought a bigger house and moved down the street. We lamented the new distance between us, then laughed at ourselves for being over-sentimental. Over a block.
At a time when my country feels impossibly divided, I draw these friends even closer, grateful to do life together; to love my neighbor and be loved by them.
It’s not what happens in the White House that matters. It’s what happens in ours.
34 “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. 35 Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”