Robert

My parents had a friend from Ethiopia who introduced them to each other. He was a close family friend. His name was something else, but for privacy reasons I’ll call my parent’s friend Robert.

When I said that I’ve not had a ton of experience with people from a different background than my own (in a previous post) I meant that in a very nuanced way. It’s not just that I haven’t known anyone ever from different backgrounds… Instead I was trying to summarize my main experiences in life and make generalizations in order to make a broader point ( This article describes my concept exceedingly better than I did, but you have to read it with honesty and not in a defensive mode of thinking to “get it”.). I’ve been acquainted with people from many different backgrounds. Although, Robert has been one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met…

Robert was from a war torn African country and he was not a wealthy man… But actually, Robert’s family while he was young was very wealthy and when the former government of Ethiopia was overthrown in the early 1970’s a lot of his family was murdered as part of that, including his father. Miraculously he escaped and then made it to the US where he went to college. He then returned to Ethiopia afterwards to start an orphanage and mission.

Eventually, in his middle-age he died there in Ethiopia from malnutrition because he was a genuinely heroic and sacrificial man who always put others first. He gave his all. When he would visit the US to gain financial support for his mission from his American friends he’d purposefully gain weight at their dinners so he could return to his country and not eat as well if necessary. Once he was eating a salad at our table (where I grew up) and he added an extra amount of dressing with a laugh and a grin and we all knew why (although it worried us). He was a truly amazing man. Not much scared him. He was also brilliant and impeccably considerate. I was truly grieved when he died. I’m positive many people were.

No…what I meant was that…we all live in a bubble. Online we interact with all sorts of people but in our real, tangible, everyday lives divisions still exist. And they always have. And they’re there for profoundly complex reasons…

The thing is…it’s wonderful to meet people from different backgrounds than your own online. BUT, I think the same care and thoughtfulness we used to use to relate to people different than us in person should be used online. At least those of us who weren’t arrogant, delusional or conceited. And obviously, some people are not kind people and were never thoughtful to begin with. But, I think for those of us who tried to be truly understanding and/or open-minded we need to remember that we’re dealing with real people behind screens. Some of them are different than us. And, most importantly, we can’t change everything but we can control how we treat each other…

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