November 30, 2010

My Thanksgiving Social Experiment

Allow me to introduce you to my friend, Darryll Dunwitty. I know, I know, there's a slight resemblance. Weird, huh? (Total coincidence) This Thanksgiving we were at my in-laws house. Their neighborhood has a yearly Thanksgiving Golf Cart Parade. While my family decorated the cart (and themselves) as Candyland - and it was quite good, I might add - I decided to send Darryll in my place. All I know to tell you is that sending a long-haired redneck headbanger to a family event at a beach resort was a social experiment that I hadn't prepared myself for. I've watched the videos of people who put on those fat suits or of a white guy made up to look like a black guy so they can attempt to get a glimpse of what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes. While I don't know that my experience would compare, it was quite a shock. 

I remember in junior high that one way or another you were somehow stuck in a group - you were categorized, stereotyped. Do you remember? In 1985 some of the more popular and populated circles were as follows: freaks, ropers, preps, jocks, nerds - and yes, these were actually real-life groups of people. There was much more truth to The Breakfast Club than we all wanted to let on. Well, it's 25 years later and for the first time in a very long time...I felt like I was placed in a group - I was stereotyped. As I walked around with my camera, snapping pictures of families and their lovely, creatively adorned golf carts, I saw more than a couple of people almost break their necks trying to get a 2nd look - like I could hear their brain inquiring out loud, "Is that guy for real?" I'm pretty sure one lady pulled her daughter back as I walked past. (Maybe it was my Bon Jovi T-shirt?) As I stopped to talk to one guy (who in his defense was pretty friendly) he couldn't contain himself any longer. He finally broke down and asked me, "Is that your real hair?" For some reason I had to tell him the truth. You should have seen the relief on his face. And then there was the man that my mother-in-law introduced me to, telling him that I was her "preacher son-in-law". He turned 5 shades of white (which I didn't even know was possible). After 15 minutes, I was ready to go home. I was there for 2 hours.

[For those who know me, you can just picture Darryll driving the Candyland Mobile through the parade, giving everyone a thumbs up, honking the horn, and throwing candy. Good times!]

I'm not sharing this with you to turn around and judge any of my fellow paraders. Or to say that the same thing couldn't (and wouldn't) have happened if Darryll had walked into any number of churches on a Sunday morning. But this was MY experience and it was extremely real. I sent Darryll out there to entertain my kids and (possibly) to slightly annoy my mother-in-law. While I'm quite certain I accomplished both of those missions, I learned a lot more. I believe I'm a book - a non-fiction adventure novel, mind you. But I felt like I had been reduced to a cover. Judged. And all I could think about - what kept running through my mind through this entire experience - was, "Lord, if I ever make anyone else feel this way, please kick my butt!"

If you haven't met Darryll I'd be glad to introduce you. But don't be surprised if he walks into your church sometime soon. Will you be ready?


Jenn Meyers said...

Wow! What an enlightening, and toe crushing post. i am sure you probably stepped on my foot with this one. It is true, that so many times whether it be in church or secular life, we judge and shut out people based on looks, or perceived social status. When we do this, we miss out on the opportunity to get to know a great person or even to share God's love with others.

I loved reading about the experiment, and look forward to reading more of your posts!

Texastiff said...
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