I went on the TGIP Israel/Palestine trip because I wanted to know more. More about Israel/Palestine. More about the conflict going on over there. More about Jesus. More about myself. I wanted to listen and keep an open mind. I didn’t want to choose sides. I learned a lot, most of which I’m still trying to sort out. But the thing, the idea, that stuck out to me the most from this trip was how easy it is for us, all of us, to dehumanize people. Not only dehumanize them but take away their story. Palestinians have done this to Israelis. Israelis have done this to Palestinians. Christians to Jews. Jews to Muslims, and so on.
Maybe we see a drunk homeless man walking down the street – this is a daily occurrence in my neighborhood – and our first thought is “What a waste,” or “I’d better lock my door.” And in that moment, that split second, we have dehumanized that person. We have taken away his story. How did he get here? What happened in his life to bring him to this point? Why do I just assume that my family isn’t safe because he’s drunk and homeless? Why have I just written my own assumption of his story and not even given him a chance to tell me the real version?
When I got home from Israel/Palestine, I planned on talking more to that homeless man – his name is Raymond by the way – but my job as a musician took me out of town more than I’d expected and I found myself plopped into situation after situation with people I didn’t see eye to eye with. People who believed differently than I did. People whose stories I could’ve easily tossed aside. But that idea of dehumanization and the need to remember that we’re all alike but not, that everyone has a story, everyone matters, that idea wouldn’t leave my thoughts.
A couple of months after the trip, I felt like I had brought no skills home from my experiences. Because I was gone so much and didn’t have time in my neighborhood with my homeless man, I didn’t think I was actually using any of the tools I’d learned.
But when I stopped to really look back on the previous months, I saw a two-week trip in an RV with my husband, two other couples, a toddler, and three dogs. A trip where I had to remember daily that we all have our own story and that we all have a reason for the things we say and the way we live our lives. I saw a week-long trip to Nashville, with my country band. Playing in smoky bars at midnight and having to talk through what it looks like to be in a band with seven people who all have different dreams for our future. I saw a weekend trip to Canada where I sang about pain, and the beauty one can find in the midst of that pain, for two thousand people from very different backgrounds who I’ll probably never see again, and I cried when they all stood up and starting singing with me. I cried because I saw them all as human. They weren’t “different,” they weren’t “weird.” They were human, like me, with a story.
I’m grateful for what I learned in Israel/Palestine, and I’m holding on to it with all I have because it has changed me and I don’t ever want to forget that.
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