John and I have been watching the series, 30 Days, on FX. If you haven’t watched or heard about it, the program puts a mainstream American in someone else’s shoes for 30 days. For instance, a devout Christian lives with a Muslim family or an affluent American lives on minimum wage. It’s interesting.

It caused me to think about what I believe in and why. So much of it goes back to when I was a kid and the experiences I had. I really had the ideal situation growing up in Red Bank, NJ. I had a kindergarten class of sixteen kids. We had three black kids, three Jewish kids, two Catholic kids and seven Protestant kids. It was a microcosm of the United States. My first knowledge of prejudice was when one of the other girls said we should get in line to go the bathroom in front of the black girl. I’d never really noticed that she was different before. This memory stays with me even after 50 years. I felt uncomfortable.

Later, when I was in sixth grade, I had a social studies project. We were assigned randomly with other kids in the class. I had the group meet at my house. My teammates were a “poor white trash” girl and a black girl. Well, I didn’t realize what a brouhaha it would create. Neighbors called my mother to complain about my bringing these people into our neighborhood. I felt more than uncomfortable this time.

Then, in middle school, we would watch the kids from the parochial school go by in their bus. All of us “regular” kids would yell taunts. “Hey, Catholic kids, you’re no good.” And things along that line. Ooh, really uncomfortable if you are a Catholic kid going to public school.

Finally, on our eighth grade trip, we went to a cathedral in Washington D.C. My best friend who was Jewish said that she didn’t know why we were going to see a Christian shrine. She was shunned the rest of the trip.

A lot of people grow up in places where they only see people like themselves. I think I was lucky to grow up in a diverse place and to recognize the horrors of prejudice.

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