By Robert Poczik
My wife’s mother, Elizabeth Baxter, was a very intelligent and accomplished woman. Conversant with four languages other than English – French, German, Latin and Greek – she was also a master photographer and gardener.
But most importantly, she was wise. One time when my wife, Ellen, and I, in our early 20s, were leaving to live for a year abroad, we were with Ellen’s and my parents, saying our farewells. Ellen was particularly concerned that they would take good care of our little cat while we were away.
My mother commented that we seemed more concerned about leaving the cat than them. Ellen’s mother wisely observed that, while we were their dependents, the cat was our dependent, so naturally we would be concerned about her.
Another time she said to me that she was fine with patriotism but did not approve of nationalism. I have thought of that many times over the years. I am very patriotic. I love our country and am proud to be an American. Our home is bedecked with red, white and blue on the Fourth of July and we fly an American flag.
But that doesn’t mean that I think our country is better than all other countries. Those countries deserve to be in the world just as much as we do, and I hope the people in those countries feel patriotic and proud of their nations also.
I think we get in trouble – and make trouble – whenever we feel that our country or part of the country or religion or gender or sexual preference or language or race is the best and better than all others. I feel blessed to be a Christian and my faith is central to my life. It may sound corny, but I find myself regularly wondering WWJD – what would Jesus do – in a given situation. But that doesn’t mean that I feel Christianity is the only true faith and is better than all others.
If I am realistic about it, I realize that I am Christian because I was born into a Christian family in a predominantly Christian country. I didn’t make a study of other faiths and then choose to be a Christian. If I had been born in Beirut, I probably would have been a Muslim; in Bangalore, a Hindu; in Bangkok, a Buddhist; in Amritsar, a Sikh.
I think wherever you are born and whatever faith you are born into, one should strive to live a life of faith, be kind and caring of others, and respectful of those who may hold different beliefs. To be a bit corny again, I think it means to bloom where you are planted – and allow others to bloom as well.
Even as I say to bloom where you are planted, I understand that sometimes that is other than where you start out – by transplanting yourself. Born in a small town, someone pursuing a career in the arts may choose to move to a city, and someone tired of the stress of living in a city may move to the country.
A love of water may cause you to move to a coast or the banks of a river. A faith other than your own may draw you. Living in another country may feel right. Some may need to change their gender to feel at home in their own bodies. And some need to flee from their homes because of famine, war and persecution.
As long as you believe that where you are is the best country, religion, gender or race for you, and not for everyone, you stay safely this side of bias, bigotry, intolerance and discrimination. So my advice is to bloom where you are planted or choose to be or need to be transplanted, and remember that the sun shines down not just on you, but on everyone everywhere.
Robert Poczik, of Williamsville, believes in the dictum, “bloom where you are planted.”