In any culture I lived, including my own, there are stories of ghosts. One common theme is associating strangers with ghost. When I was in graduate school in Asia, a classmate shared with me an encounter between a little boy and two good-looking friends of mine. My friends rented an apartment off-campus. Their building was separate from the owner's. The owner had a little boy. To make sure that the boy would not go out unattended, the parents warned him, "Those guys staying down there are mumu. Don't go out alone." In their language, mumu means ghost.
One day, one of my friends suddenly exited the back door leading to a face-to-face encounter with the boy. Surprised rather than scared, the boy ran to his parents and told them, ‘Mumu Pogi.’ It means "The ghost is handsome". Even though I believe parents shouldn‘t use such a stereotype for behavior management, I was amazed to learn that the little boy used his own judgment.
The little boy didn't acquire the stereotype genetically. He was taught. How much of our impressions about others is shaped by our parents’ judgment, community sentiment or cultural biases? The best we can do as Christians is to look at others the way God looks at us. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28 ESV).
The stereotype lost its power when that little boy met my friend. Some problems vanish when we face them. Their power is only in our imaginations. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).
The little boy found his personal experience different from what he was taught. Some assumptions we learn from others break apart when tested through personal experiences. Do not limit your knowledge to vicarious learning! Sometimes, even our understanding of God himself maybe biased because of what we were told by others or the impressions we got. That is why he says, "I, the LORD, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
Though he was expected to experience fear, the boy found his encounter with my friends rather enjoyable. We may miss pleasant moments because of irrational fears. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus' body was laid and found the tomb empty. Her fear was that someone had taken Jesus' body. She forgot that He would be resurrected as He promised. Out of love and care, He revealed himself to her but she didn't recognize him because she was in tears. She later recognized him by the way he called her name and her tears of fear became tears of joy.
Has there been a time you were able to break stereotypes and connect with people who aren't in your domain of socialization? Was it rewarding?
Write how you would like God to strengthen you in nurturing unbiased outlook toward humanity. Ask God to help you be a blessing to strangers.