I grew up in a smaller, midwestern town. I loved my childhood and I loved the simplicity growing up there. I learned to find so much joy in the small things, and never longed for a “fancy” life or fancy things. That girl is still alive and well, and I still have no desire to ever own a purse just because of the name that’s on it. To this day, I feel so grateful that this is where I grew up, and the way I grew up. But there was something that I, personally, felt like I was missing in my life while I was there. Diversity.
Things seemed a lot easier when everyone was generally very similar to others around them. There was not too much to dispute over, because a lot of people agreed on the majority of topics, morals, religions, lifestyles, etc. The thought that anyone would have a wildly different upbringing than me just was not something I thought much about. Until I moved, the first of many, to somewhere completely different than Nebraska. Let me give you a little insight into where life has taken me, along with the range of people I have met along the way!
I went to the University of Arizona for college, and in the greek system there, I met a lot of people who were born into families in the top 1% wealthiest in the country. I met people who grew up in different states all over the country, and I also met many people who were Jewish – a religion and culture I knew very little about at the time. I had the opportunity to meet parents and family members of friends who were so different than what I was used to. I even spent four months of college living in a small apartment in Spain, with a family who did not know a lick of English. My Spanish Madre (mom) had a live-in boyfriend from Argentina, and my Spanish Hermana (sister) had a live-in fiance who was from northern Africa. Talk about a diverse household!
After college, I ventured to the big city of Chicago for graduate school. I still got the “midwestern” vibe from this favorite city of mine, but I also got so much more. I had rotations as an SLP student in the Chicago Public Schools and in a trauma-
heavy hospital. Both of these rotations were on the “south side” of the city. I also got to experience running alongside 45 thousand people of all ages, shapes and sizes, while being cheered on by 1.1 million people running the epic Chicago Marathon.
My current location is a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. In my time here, I have taken a medical mission trip to the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. I got to be scrubbed in, holding the wall of an abdomen open during surgery, while helping translate English to Spanish, so that a local could then translate Spanish to Mayan for our patient. I have met many Arizona locals where I live that are of the Mormon faith. I have had the blessing to serve, and be in community with local refugees – some of whom spent 12+ years waiting to come to the United States. And lastly, I have had the privilege of working at a non-profit hospital downtown where I have patients that range from a woman who has travelled across the country for a specialized neurosurgery, through a severe case of dehydration of a homeless gentleman found on a 115 degree day.
So why share all of that with you? Haven’t a lot of people traveled or had their own neat, or crazy experiences? I share with you, because this journey has shaped who I am today. This journey from high school graduation until now has been 12 years. 12 years of constantly being in situations that I’m not “comfortable” in, per se. But I have learned so much, and I have grown a deeper understanding and compassion for people from all walks of life through this journey.
The amazing thing is…the more “different” people I met and stories of lives I have witnessed, the more I started seeing everyone through the same eyes. The same lens. The “lens of love,” as I have finally come to call it.
We are all beautiful and all broken at the same time. We have values, experiences and stories unlike the person next to us. But if you are like me, your greatest desire is to simply be seen and loved for exactly who you are. You are already working hard enough to embrace who you are and keep growing into the best version of yourself. How in the heck could you have time to try (likely unsuccessfully) to change the people around you through judgment? If we could focus on seeing everyone in our families, at work, on the news, etc. through one simple, yet powerful lens of love – imagine what kind of weight that takes from our shoulders, and what kind of light that would bring into this world!
If you are a small town gal or big city slicker, Muslim or Christian, vote differently than I do or exactly as I do, were born in a war-torn village or a quiet cul-de-sac, love someone of the same gender or someone of the opposite, suffer from addiction or from mental illness, love the fashion industry or wear muddy boots seven days a week, live in a hut or live in a mansion, love Cardi B or love smooth jazz…. you are loved, you are seen, and you are so incredibly welcome here in the inspo&grace community.
Years ago, I would have hoped that I could love and embrace others. But I feel blessed to have had that hope put to the test.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” -MLK
Much love to you, friends. Have a wonderful Sunday night <3
XoXo Lindsey Sholtis