I was a finicky eater as a child. I had a full palate for junk food. But when it came to “real food,” I survived on meat and potatoes.
There was a very small group of selected vegetables that also crossed my lips. On my hate list were broccoli, spinach, beets, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and, of course, okra. As an adult, I expanded my diet but kept a list of foods to avoid.
On shore leave during military deployments, I could hardly wait to get back to the ship and Navy chow. Most sailors complained about Navy food, but for me, it was always safe.
At various times in my marriage, Donna, my beautiful wife, has suggested that we become “more plant based.” This was a euphemism for mostly vegan with a relaxation of veganism during holidays or when entertaining. It just did not seem like a doable lifestyle change for a finicky eater.
About a year ago, we made the plunge into that “more plant based” diet. Donna showed me a few videos and made a delightful vegan dinner with foods I cannot pronounce and a wonderful array of colors. I was hooked. I have been eating and enjoying delicious meals that contain the very foods I avoided for years.
My experience demonstrates a common but nonsensical aspect of human life. We often possess prejudices that prevent us from experiencing life at its fullest. We make assumptions and treat them as if they were facts. These assumptions restrict us from experiencing all of life.
One of the hidden blessings of the pandemic is that it has given us an opportunity to adopt new habits and to explore new adventures. After binge watching our traditional genre of movies, some of us have explored other categories of entertainment. To our utter amazement, we found them quite enjoyable. Having left the fitness center, some of us have found unexpected joy in outdoor exercises. Who knew kayaking could be so fulfilling?
While this principle seems to apply to food, sports and entertainment, it also applies to people and culture. We often make assumptions about people who are of a different culture or socioeconomic group. These assumptions separate us and prevent us from experiencing life at its fullest.
Like those Brussels sprouts that I left on my plate as a child, many of us avoid interacting with certain groups or cultures only to discover that we were cheating ourselves.
The good news is that we can change our diet, our entertainment, our athletic activities and our social groups. We can push beyond our self-imposed barriers and discover new sources of wholeness. We can leave behind our assumptions and gather firsthand information based on our experiences. We can change.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.