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I’m Okay, You’re Not So Hot: The Roots of Prejudice

When a dream startles us awake, it demands our attention.

I opened the door to find an attractive Pakistani woman on my doorstep. She asked to come in to borrow a cake pan. I let her in and told her to look in the cupboards as I was fixing coffee for my family and preoccupied.

My parents were visiting for the first time; my sister and her new husband were also there. I was anxious to get the coffee started when the woman asked if I had a certain type of cake pan. I did not and told her she could go to the store nearby and probably find one. She resisted this idea and suggested that I could use a pan like that; why don’t I buy one?

I was incensed. In my mind, I had let this woman into my home, offered to loan her what items I had to make her stupid cake and then she had the nerve to suggest I buy the cake pan that she needed. I forced her bodily from my home.

In the light of day, this dream (like so many) seems stupid. But someone once advised that in order to unearth the cause of a dream, we must dissect the root of its emotion. I awoke enraged. What was the nature of this extreme reaction?

I began tentatively to view the experience from the woman’s perspective. Could it be that she wanted me to have the cake pan so that I might bake a cake for my family? Could it be that she wanted to share the joy of what if means to give to others? Was the cake a metaphor for the sweetness in life that I refused to partake?

I do not know the Pakistani culture, but I recalled an experience I had with some Armenian friends many years ago. They too offered me cake which I did not eat. Later a friend told me that this was a great insult. They did not show it, so I did not know, but in my righteous refusal of calories, I missed an opportunity for friendship.

I wonder how often we reject people and cultures because of our limited worldview?

Many years ago, when my son was a newborn, my husband needed to travel out of state. He didn’t want to the two of us to stay at home alone and insisted we join him for the 1500 mile car trip. I was too young to argue and was miserable the whole time. All I wanted was sleep.

A month later, after my six-week maternity leave was over and I had returned to work, he bought tickets to Tahiti for my birthday. Flying halfway across the world with an infant at home was not my idea of a vacation. I returned exhausted and sick with strep throat.

For years I harbored anger at his insensitivity and mentally criticized every gift he offered. In the light of my dream, I see his behavior more clearly. It’s simple really: He wanted to protect his family and to give to the woman he loved.

In an indifferent and self-absorbed world, it is often wise to question a person’s motive. But how many opportunities for community and connectedness would we gain if we looked at a person expecting the highest he has to offer?

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