One of the coolest things about Facebook is that it keeps me in regular contact with a friend (American) from high school who lives and teaches in Singapore. Also cool: that friend introduced me to his friend who is from Singapore. I follow her life through her engaging photos and posts. Visiting her elderly aunts. Teaching during the pandemic. Adopting a stray cat.
Yesterday she posted about just not being excited about an upcoming holiday. Holiday? I wondered. Just for fun I googled her hashtag, thinking, this must be some esoteric holiday specific to Singapore. When I arrived at the answer I felt very small indeed. #cny2022 = Chinese New Year.
Oh. Well, of course. I knew that. But I just wasn’t thinking.
Chinese New Year is on the calendar, of course, but it isn’t on my calendar.
I had that same feeling yesterday when I saw the many posts about Holocaust Remembrance Day. I took the time to read them, and think, and respond, but it was clear that my Jewish friends who had posted had anticipated this day. They had been ready. It was an important day that must be marked and observed.
As for me, as important as I think it is, it wasn’t on my calendar.
Last November the Columbia Assocation scheduled a pre-budget informational session on November 4th: Divali. Divali is a popular Hindu festival which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It’s very likely that the holiday was on whatever basic calendar that Columbia Association uses, but, it’s not on their calendar, if you know what I mean. To their credit, they responded to their oversight with grace and worked to make sure that their meeting had not been a lost opportunity for Columbia residents who were celebrating.
What am I getting at?
I’m realizing more and more how being pleasantly oblivious to other people’s holidays, Holy Days, and important days of observance is a kind of othering. I could be doing a lot better. Just saying that I accept everyone and I don’t mean any harm but still remaining ignorant is a choice. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s hurtful.
If I don’t take the time to learn and understand I am essentially saying that it’s fine for people who aren’t like me to remain irrelevant in comparison to my own life. Sure, those days are “on the calendar” but they aren’t on my calendar. Not knowing is a choice. And it’s in the same neighborhood as not caring. It has taken me a long time to realize that.
I don’t like that about myself.
If we surround ourselves with people who are just like us, then we never have to take a second look at our calendars. Especially for people who are cisgender, straight, white Christians in this country: the best way to remain comfortable is within a protective pod of sameness.
We like to think that’s not who we are. In Columbia/HoCo we make a BFD of our inclusivity and diversity. But I’m beginning to think that saying “Oh! I didn’t have that on my calendar,” is just another way of saying, “I didn’t have you on my calendar.”
I can do better.