Ad odd thing happened to me one day that I believe would pique the curiosity of all who looked in the shop window as I had. My first reaction was that I was seeing things, but as I stood there gazing, I knew that what I was looking at was in fact real.
Then, when I came out of my somewhat shallow stupor, I stepped back to stare up at the façade and the sign above the entrance to be certain I hadn’t read it wrong and was at the right store. Seeing I hadn’t erred, I glanced back at the window. A whole bevy of thoughts flooded my mind about the reasoning behind the clothing store’s decision to place a jar of mustard in their display window next to the beautifully dressed mannequins.
Naturally, because of the oddity of the display, I felt compelled to inquire within. I ventured into the store and nonchalantly browsed looking for a display that would show something about the mustard. Again, I felt the curiosity swell as to the meaning behind the window display. I even wondered if it was some sort of contest or promotion that would have a big reward for the person who noticed while at the same time dismissing it as absurd.
Finally, when I couldn’t find an answer on my own, I sauntered over to one of the counters where there were no customers and waited for the sales person to approach. As soon as the young man completed what he was doing, he came over to me.
“May I help you ma’am?”
I cleared my throat. “I hope so. I noticed a jar of mustard in the display window and can’t help wondering why it would be there.”
He straightened his shoulders and replied, “The mustard is a gourmet blend of special seasonings that separates if from all the rest. Its superior taste is so far above the common brands that we decided it deserved a place alongside other superior items. It is fashionable in its own right.”
That hooked me and I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound”.
I took out a five dollar bill and said, “I’ll take a jar.”
He looked at the bill in my hand and smirked. Then with a haughty tone said, “I beg your pardon but you must have misunderstood. That jar of mustard sells for $35.”
“That’s totally outrageous”, I blurted and laughed.
An icy-cold glare let me know I had overstepped an invisible line. I knew it was time for me to leave so I shoved the bill back into my purse and left.
As I walked along feeling somewhat dejected, I couldn’t help think how as humans we all have a different perception of what has value and what doesn’t. The more I pondered it, the more I realized that life is odd. So much attention is paid to the value of an inanimate object while at the same time, in many instances, none or very little attention is paid to the value of a person’s life.
I brought the subject up to a friend as a matter of casual conversation and the first words he said when I finished was, “That’s not true. It’s only in rare cases that people don’t care enough about the value of a person’s life.”
I thought about that for a moment then replied, “If that’s true, why are there so many suicide bombings today, so much genocide and murder and road rage and discrimination and bigotry?”
He looked at me and said, “They have nothing to do with what you said.”
That statement made me sit back and take note because I believed that in his own way he was guarding feelings he held inside about things. Feelings he didn’t want to surface lest he be found out or that he felt guilty about for harboring them. It’s a complex subject no doubt, but the fact remains that the value of human life has become a cheaper commodity than it used to be.
Being transgender, I have experienced the attitude and hatred some people harbor towards others who are different. Sadly, what I have experienced is miniscule to what exists throughout the country and the world. Two recent incidents solidify my point: the first being the treatment of LGBT people in Russia; and the second being the legislation that is now being proposed in Kansas, Tennessee and other states making it legal for business owners to refuse service to anyone they perceive to be gay or transgender.
Another area that stresses the intolerance of people toward others is one that has existed since the beginnings of religious beliefs. Just read the news regarding the terrorists acts based upon religious beliefs; or the wars in the Mid-East; the Crusades and on and on. I am Catholic and have had the experience of being verbally attacked because of my beliefs --- the arguments against me being based upon events that happened in the church centuries ago or of recent years, which had nothing to do with the Catholic faith itself but the people within the church.
Discrimination in all its forms is based upon an individual’s point of view. Each person’s perception of how they feel and how they treat others is the foundation of what value they place on others. In itself, having one’s own perception is not wrong or harmful and, is in fact, encouraged so that as a society we can grow and progress. But when one’s perception causes them to act negatively to others solely based upon that factor, it becomes hurtful and wrong.
With that in mind, I thought about that jar of mustard and I realized that my feeling toward the price was grounded in my perception of value compared to other jars of mustard. I had no idea of the ingredients within nor the taste and it made me realize that when I see others I need to be careful of forming an opinion about them because I don’t know what type of person they may be or what circumstances they have experienced in their lives that brought them to the point they are at.
Regardless of whether I like or dislike what a person looks like, or has done or is doing, I need to refrain from placing a form of value on them. I don’t like being valued as less than a human being solely based upon my being transgender; and like that jar of mustard in the store window, I have a value and worth that goes far beyond the exterior and that is how I need to perceive others.
February 14, 2014