This I Believe

Emma - Wheaton, Illinois
Entered on July 15, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Ever since I can remember my family has taught me to live my life loving others. My first days of school were a bit of a shock, leaving my familiar house and small neighborhood behind for three hours. When I got to school it seemed as if a wall separating me from life had just come crashing down. I saw people of different races, people who had different speech mannerisms, people who were different than myself. It was almost too much for my little head to comprehend and at the time it felt strange, but something inside of me said this is what it means to love others for their differences. People may look and talk differently than you, but that doesn’t make their hearts different from your own.

From those first days of kindergarten to this very moment my family has been beside me, guiding me through life and teaching me to pay everyone respect. My family is very diverse. My mom is Christian, my dad is Jewish and my Aunt is Buddhist. My relatives live from New York, to Iowa, to Germany and everywhere in between. There are lawyers, musicians, doctors, and writers in my family. Despite our differences I love every single one of them. Loving them has taught me something no textbook or class could ever teach me. Loving them has taught me to love others.

In school I used to be, and still am asked a lot of questions, “What religion do you consider yourself?” “What holidays do you celebrate?” “Why aren’t you being confirmed?” These questions are fine with me but sometimes they are presented in a judgmental way, which really hurts. People have tried to mold me into someone that I am not, and it takes a lot of courage to be strong in myself and stand my ground. I have always lived my life accepting others for whatever choices they make when it comes to faith. It is hard for me to understand why others are so fixed on knowing all about mine.

Today I still face these questions and judgments, but because of them I feel myself growing stronger in my family and my faith. Standing tall has taught me to look at others faiths with the same respect that I have for my own.

I believe in celebrating individuality. As I have grown up I have not only accepted different religions, races, and languages, but also learned to take joy in them. It is hard to imagine a world of people that are all the same. Being with my family through thick and through thin has taught me that our differences are something that we should take pride in, not hide. If there is one thing I want people to understand about me it is that I am proud of who I am. I am open and do not judge before I know. Loving my family and others for their differences has made my world a rich and inspiring place.