“Mom, why are Beagles so mean?” my four year old just asked me.
“Beagles aren’t mean,” I replied, thinking Beagles are a lot of things, but mean usually isn’t one of them.
“Well,” gesturing to her lunch, “they eat people’s food.”
I nodded. Couldn’t disagree with that. Some would definitely classify that as mean. Fair. And, it’s true that Toby is borderline morbidly obese, thanks in large part to his obsession with all things everyone’s food.
“And,” she continued pointing to the windows, “they eat….”
“Blinds,” I cut her off. Toby does think it’s his objective in life to hunt down and destroy every college kid who dares to walk to school using the pathway in front of our house. Since he is a caged soul, the blinds receive the brunt of his anger and Beagle justice.
But, Toby is not just a stealer of food and destroyer of blinds and owner of an earsplitting set of vocal chords. He is a lover of Attie (his dog sister), he is a comforter to the sad, he is a snuggler with the cold, and in a unique dog way, he makes people feel special. He is some other bad things and some other good things.
But my point is two fold.
Be careful how you label people (and I guess, dogs, whatever)*. People are not one or two attributes. People are not their mistakes or their triumphs. People are not the color of their skin, or their upbringing, or their paycheck. People are not their political affiliation or who they voted for in 2012 or 2016. Who people are is way too deep to qualify with labels, even lots of labels: white, middle class, 30 something Christian. I’m more than that. You are, too.
Your children are listening to you. My children believe with all of their hearts that Beagles are bad because of mine and Tall Guy’s loud drama concerning the shortcomings of our Toby. Our children will likely carry these preconceived beliefs into their adulthood and they will be hard to shake.
To love our neighbors, is to know our neighbors PAST our preconceived notions about them, and the labels we’ve assigned to them.**
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 26-40
*I really wouldn’t worry about labeling cats. All stereotypes applying to them are directly indicative of their souls (or lack thereof).
**I have so much more to say about these things, but it’s Sunday, and I have Sabbathing to do.