This I Believe

Samantha - Culver/IN/46511, Indiana
Entered on February 18, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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From Graham crackers to empowerment

One of my fondest childhood memories was the time spent at our neighbor’s house, with my best friend Francesca. Her house was essentially my second home and I gradually acclimated myself to their lifestyle. One characteristic that I grew accustomed to was right before we went to sleep, her mother, being an evangelical Christian, would read us a verse from the children’s bible. I would pull the soft blankets up to my chin, while I nibbled on graham crackers and toyed with some knick knack, while her soothing voice would surround me with a serene ambiance. Francesca would always listen attentively, which was remarkable for a ten year old, while I would let the words wash over me while my focus remained on the graham cracker. I knew nothing of this nightly ritual, or what exactly she was reading, except that stories were entertaining and that she perpetually smelled like vanilla. Eventually we drifted apart, although I never quite knew why.

I am not religious. I am what you would call a deist. I have faith in god based on a reason rather than a revelation and do not conform to the religious dogma associated with organized religion. My parents were very open to my decisions on my faith, even if it varied from their own, so I was never exposed to the stereotype connected with not being religious…until now. This is my first year attending boarding school, and paradoxically enough, the first person I became close with was adamantly religious. To me, this posed no problem for I respected his religious decisions as I thought he did mine. The days of graham cracker hoarding and absent minded listening seemed adequate at the time to cope with any sort of organized religion. Months passed, and I though it was love. He was brilliant, kind and intriguing, but I couldn’t help but notice his negative implications toward my choice of faith. I kept redirecting my worried thoughts, but one day the dam burst. We began arguing about his complete conformity and close mindedness in regards to his faith, until he finally admit that he thought I was going to hell and he entered this relationship in hope of “saving me”. I was speechless. I walked away silently, tears streaming down my face, finding it hard to understand that no matter how much I could love someone, their devotion to a certain set of edicts would always be the iron gate that surrounded their heart and shielded their eyes. It was then that I realized why Francesca would always listen so attentively to the seeming childish stories, while I drifted away into my own curiosity,.

I believe in the spectacles of life. They serve as a barometer of reality, recognizing what is fact as opposed to assumption. They expand myopic views of society to eliminate rash stereotypes and generalizations. The difficulty lies not in the act of seeing through the spectacles, but the choice to wear them. We would much rather spend the rest of our lives believing that our first impressions were right all along, than to admit that character lies deeper than generalization.

I never asked that boy to renounce his faith. Nor did I chastise him for it. I simply asked him to explore the foundation of his faith, as well as the foundations of other’s faith. Stepping outside the boundaries of ones pride to assess reality, and to look deeper than what you believe is true. Although this journey to enlightenment motivated him to take a different path on the road of religion, the accomplishment was his decision to look at the map.

I have come to realize that the majority of people (including myself at one point) feel their way through life, blinded by their self imposed knowledge, and security of assumption, holding themselves up on the people they are willing to put below them. I believe that no matter what our beliefs are, at some point we must take the initiative to put on the spectacles and view each other for what we are, rather then what we are not. That we must be fearless of the empowerment of knowledge, and what we might see when our lives are in focus. That some day, the greetings will not be initiated by the question “What are you?” but rather “Who are you?”. This I believe.