This post idea has been in my head for the last couple of days. I still don’t think I have it quite right or what the point is, but I think most of my readers would agree that most of my posts are pointless. This is a rambling piece about how I slowly went from a small-town boy with little exposure to people not like me to who I am now. I will also point out that I am not trying to claim that I have become a perfect person or that I’ve really done much of anything to make the world a better place. So here goes.
I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. We were not an all white community, but it was very segregated. Everyone who lived in my neighborhood looked like me. All of my closest friends looked like me. I did not know anyone who was openly gay. I spent all of my time with people like me. We didn’t travel much so I never had the opportunity to break out of this bubble and be around others who were not like me. The closest I got was my summer in Lexington at the Governor’s Scholar Program where I lived on campus with other kid from around the state. Otherwise, I spent all of my life around people who were a lot like me. I probably did and said things that were not nice and would be offensive to others. Probably out of ignorance and a desperate need to try to fit in. I was not the most enlightened person.
The first part of my college experience didn’t change much. I did have my first non-white teacher. I had people in my dorm who didn’t look like me, but I spent all of my time partying with my high school friends instead of meeting a lot of new people. Even when I had to step away from them because my partying was damaging my grades I went to the Baptist Student Union where most of the people were still a lot like me. I had a few more friends who were not white, but I still had mostly people who were a lot like me around me. I was never in a place where I needed to open my mind about others.
Things started to change a little my junior year when I got a job at the campus library. I spent my Saturdays working with people from around the world. I now had friends and coworkers from African and Asian countries. I had conversations that I had never had before. I learned about them and their cultures and a little about what it was like living in Kentucky as a person of color. As my time at the library went on I met more of the student and full-time employees. The library was where I first spent a lot of time with a person who was openly gay. The library allowed me to spend more time around people who were not like me. Those two and a half years are probably some of the best years of my life and went a long way toward making me who I am today.
After I left Lexington, I drifted from job to job while I finished school. I delivered newspapers. I worked at a market research firm. I spent some time at a public library. All of these jobs gave me more chances to meet new people and have new experiences. I eventually ended up here in Maryland where I spent 20 years in jail and now at the public library.
So, is there a point to any of this?
I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in life to grow as a person. I’m grateful for the people in my life who have helped me become a better person. I’m grateful for the opportunity to leave my small town bubble. I hope that I have grown to be a somewhat decent person. I hope that I have never made anyone feel like I don’t accept and love them for who they are. I hope that everyone has the chance to get out of their bubble and grow as a person.