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Love Your Neighbor

November 7, 2022

11/6/2022

This post is not about crossdressing. Instead, this is about something that I recently discovered about myself and how a guy I know made me a better man.

Pancake

Once upon a time, I went with a church group to help out at a soup kitchen. We arrived early and prepared a meal. At one point, I stepped outside and went to the car. I saw a group of a few men lined up at the entrance. The doors were still shut. I decided to walk over and meet some of our “customers”. They were all potentially homeless. These guys were struggling in life. They needed a free meal.

One of the men that I met was apparently on drugs or something. Even his ability to look at me was impaired. I said hello and introduced myself. He responded with slurred speech including how he was going to kill someone. That left an impression with me. I found it hard to make conversation with this guy. I managed to respond and go meet a few more people.

Perhaps two years later, I prayed to God and asked him to teach me how to love my neighbors. I have always been taught that loving your neighbor is a massive tenet of the Christian faith. I realized that I might not be good at it. I prayed and asked God to teach me. He answered that prayer! He started revealing how I was selfish, arrogant, and even racist. He revealed a lot of ugly things that I had never seen. He showed me how I was failing even in areas where I thought I had been doing well. He turned over some rocks that needed turning over, so to speak.

I responded. I started trying to get to know people who were unlike me. I have not done enough yet. I have a lot to continue to change and improve about myself. One of the changes was: I started going to a very different barber shop. I met a man who worked there. I think of him as a friend these days, though my whole relationship with him is set in a barber chair. One day, while my hair was being cut, I saw the man from the soup kitchen. He was sweeping the floor in the barber shop. My barber had hired the man.

I saw the man on a few occasions over the following months. He always seemed messed up by his lifestyle. He might have been stoned. Maybe he is just sick from the chemicals he had abused. He was definitely not on top of life. One day, when the man was not there, I asked my barber about him. “Oh, ‘Pancake’?” he said. “Yeah, I grew up with Pancake. We went to school together. He’s good people. He has fallen on some hard times and he has had a hard time getting past it.” What a kind way to talk about a person being addicted! I did not argue, I just tried to listen.

My barber was careful not to gossip or trash-talk Pancake. I think he was trying to be on his best behavior. When I probed a little more, he told me of their childhood and neat things about Pancake. He never told me anything negative, other than “he has fallen on hard times and hasn’t gotten past it.”

On one of the last few times that I went to the barber shop, Pancake was sitting outside smoking. When I was leaving, I talked to him for a few minutes. He had a friendly, but short conversation with me. He could see in my eyes that I was not his enemy. I was honestly happy to see him and talk to him. My barber had changed my impression of Pancake.

Co-worker

This week, I was at work. One of my co-workers said, “I go with my church group to volunteer at the soup kitchen every month.” He was talking to another co-worker. He added that it was good to help the people truly in need, who could not help their situation. But, he said that he did not care to help the people who had made bad choices, and done drugs, and were consequently in need. This is a rather common sentiment among white, southern, conservatives (including Christians).

In fact, I have said and felt the same thing at times in my life. These days, it sounds more like hate to me than it used to. I had some time later, and my mind wandered. I started thinking about Pancake. I realized how much I had changed. I realized how much my barber had changed my perspective. I felt SO MUCH appreciation for my barber. He had made me such a better man!

Jesus

The Bible teaches that the #1 commandment is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The Bible also teaches that the #2 commandment is to love our neighbor just like we love ourselves. I grew up thinking that I was obeying these commandments. However, I have seen in so many ways how I have a lot of improvements to make to master both of these. If you see someone who is an addict, a junkie, a bum… Jesus died for his sins, just as much as he died for your sins. You are equals in the kingdom of God. God loves both of you. If you meet a Christian who, like me, did not want to help a person who makes bad choices, please do not judge Jesus by that. They are doing it wrong. Loving our neighbor, includes those people we disrespect.

I know that some will scoff at this. Why should anyone listen to the religious ramblings of a lousy old crossdresser? In many eyes, I am just as unworthy as some old junkie. It is the truth. I am equally unworthy. The more I see my unworthiness, the easier it is to love a guy named Pancake.

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From → Opinion

4 Comments
  1. Alvie permalink

    You’re right. We all fall short of our best. A wit once concluded that Jesus taught that we should love our enemies––and love our neighbors––because they’re so often the same people!
    Perhaps the crossdressing might have a little something to do with it. When we’re secluded within a group of like-minded people, our shortcomings perhaps become less visible to ourselves and them. But once we step outside the familiar, others might revise their opinion. Could it be that stepping to the outside, and feeling sometimes judged and also sometimes accepted, may have broadened your perspective? In this positive sense, do you think that crossdressing is a humbling thing to do?

    • For me, crossdressing has been embarrassing, and shameful. It has caused me to feel guilt and self-doubt. There are numerous flavors of these things that I have felt, depending on the setting. When I was in middle school, it was different than when I was in college… I don’t know how to better answer your question.
      Definitely, when I go out as a man in a dress, people can look at me, and make a quick assessment of me. I can see the reactions. In a second, someone expresses disgust, or shock, or awkward discomfort, or complete disinterest, or kindness. I am a southern American. Where I live, people of minority status (primarily meaning minority race) are the most kind in their reactions to me. They will smile at me and say hello to me. People who are more like me are more uncomfortable and/or judgmental. Young people are more likely to have a, “whatever”/I don’t care reaction.

      Being able to see people that I relate to behave the least kind has affected how I react to others.

      • Alvie permalink

        “Being able to see people that I relate to behave the least kind has affected how I react to others.”

        This is exactly what came across from your essay. It seems that your experience of being “othered” has opened your eyes, a net positive of crossdressing despite some negative reactions. You’ve had direct experiences that no class on implicit bias could match. When I wrote “humbling,” I did not in any way mean to imply “degrading,” only that a humble person doesn’t place him or her self above (or below) those deemed “other.”

        Recently in the news, there was a fascinating report of a research project that allowed two participants to don “augmented reality” headsets, and visualize themselves as the other subject. That is, they each looked down together, and would see not their own bodies, but their partner’s. Of course, for the program to work, the participants had to cooperate in directing their gazes. The researchers tested the reactions of men and women paired together, as well as subjects of different races.

        The result is that tests of implicit bias administered both before and after the virtual body transfer, showed a marked decline in implicit bias for both partners. Curiously, this effect persisted even when tested again days later. The researchers also noted how respectful partners were in negotiating where they might direct their gaze or touch their “new” bodies––even though in reality they were only touching themselves.

        The poet Mary Lathrap seems to have reached the same broadened consciousness without benefit of VR goggles in a poem dated 1895, originating a common phrase often attributed to Native Americans.
        https://www.aaanativearts.com/walk-mile-in-his-moccasins

  2. Smolt permalink

    We have all fallen short of the glory of God.

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