When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien … you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. – Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)
At my new school back in third grade, I vividly remember approaching peers on the playground and asking if I could join their game. I was met with one of the most dreaded phrases of my childhood: Tick tock, game locked. That meant they didn’t want to play with me. That was the law of the playground to protect the scarce resource of playtime. Once it was spoken, I couldn’t argue. I had to find some other place to play, also losing playtime as I did.
Unfortunately, this mindset didn’t remain on the playground. Though it plays out differently in various settings and circumstances, our scarcity-based society thrives on exclusions. We create separations based on our sexual orientations, pigmentations, national originations, gender identifications, political inclinations, educations, or other iterations of human variations.
Our biblical ancestors too were a people who were quite familiar with being outsiders. Even so, situations of comfort made them forget about their own hardships as aliens. When they had plenty, they guarded instead of sharing. Like them, we work hard at getting and keeping what we’ve got at any cost. Sometimes we’re so focused on doing things right that we forget to do the right thing.
I’m personally grateful for those few rule-challengers in third grade (and beyond!) who went against culture to welcome me. It’s through them that I was able to thrive and be the best third grader I knew how to be.
Help us realize you have more than enough for all of us. Embolden us to act toward the day we can proclaim: Tick tock, nothing locked! Amen.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.