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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

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December 11th, 2005

Have your prejudices been challenged lately?

In my part-time job I sell merchandise at America West Arena. Home to the NBA Phoenix Suns, Arizona Rattlers Arena Football team, and the Phoenix Roadrunners Hockey Club. For these events, our walk in store is open like any in a mall. For concerts, the set up is different.

In a concert setting we put two long tables across the opening to the store and set up grids behind us to display the merchandise. Boxes on the floor are full of t-shirts, arranged by style and size. The popularity and notoriety of the group in concert determines the size of the crowd and the pace of the evening. We’ve worked so many concerts that we are fairly able to predict what to expect. How steady sales will be, the length of the walk out, what type of outfits and clothing the fans will be wearing, whether it will be a heavy cash or heavy credit card night, and what kind of behavior will be displayed. Put another way, how many drunk and/or belligerent concert goers will the police escort out of the building?

The style of music determines the style of the crowd. George Strait brings in more cowboy hats and Tony Lama boots than you’ve ever seen under one roof. Cher (whose “Farewell Tour” has played the arena three times…so far) brings in more cross-dressers than you’ve ever seen under one roof. And the Rolling Stones are a magnet for Baby Boomers who rang up their credit cards for a building record of over $260,000 in merchandise in one evening.

We’ve worked so many concerts that we are fairly able to predict what to expect. Most of the time we’re right. But once in awhile we’re surprised. Which is to say that once in awhile my prejudices are challenged.

Nine Inch Nails came to town some time ago. It’s not music that I listen to. Some of the words on their concert T-shirts I wouldn’t feel comfortable listing here. Many of their fans are big into the Gothic look. The black overcoats, tattoos, multiple body piercings, black eye and lip liner. Part of me doesn’t care about this. To each his own. But when I push past the platitude, I know that I have pre-conceived ideas about the Goth look and the people who dress this way. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have been surprised on this night.

I expected the usual crush at the tables. Ten people across and thirty people deep, pushing for position and demanding to be next. Only I expected worse from this crowd. Anyone in a leather jacket with a spiked green Mohawk, an angry neck tattoo, and a chain connecting the ring in his nose to the ring in his ear can’t be of pleasant disposition, right? I was fairly certain this would be a night we’d be yelling for Security to help keep order.

But it didn’t happen. At all. Not once. There was no crush of people. No yelling. In fact, on their own they formed two neat lines. One for cash and one for debit/credit. This never happens at a concert. Ever. The odds of two neat lines at a concert merchandise table are the same as a pack of wild dogs forming a line behind a plate of pork chops.

There was no profanity, no demanding to be waited on. Quite the contrary. We heard, “I believe that she was here first. Please go ahead. I’ll wait.” And “May I please see the black photo T in a large? Thank you.” And “I’m sorry to be a bother, but could I see this in a medium instead?” And “Thanks for helping me. Have a great evening, ok?”

The courtesy and politeness were mind blowing. Especially in contrast to the Baby Boomers (read: “people my age”) who attended the REO Speedwagon/Styx concert within the same two week period. There was no black finger nail polish or wallet chains to be found on that night. But they were, for the most part, obnoxious, rude and downright insufferable. Put French cuffs and a silk tie on a jerk and all you have is a well-dressed jerk.

One reason we hold to wrong beliefs about people is that we don’t get close enough for our prejudices to be challenged. It’s easy to judge from a distance. The only conversation we have to have is with ourselves. We decide not to like people based on what we see or what we think we know. Humans tend to be down on what we’re not up on. The only way to get “up” is to get close enough for our prejudices to be challenged. I was down on the Gothic image because the only conversation I had about it was with myself. The concert forced me to examine my attitudes, which were proven to be selfish and short-sighted. I’ll still never buy a Nine Inch Nails CD. But since that night my attitude is different toward those who do.

During His time on earth, Jesus loved people up close and personal. While the religious leaders and power brokers judged from a distance, Jesus mixed and mingled with everyone. Including everyone no one wanted to be associated with. The lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the “sinners”. Why? Because Jesus understood that people matter to God. All people. Whether someone’s sporting a black trench coat and a rivet in their ear or are prepped out in Izod and Sperry Topsiders, it’s just the outside of an inside that’s the same. We all need God.

Here’s hoping your prejudices are challenged this week. Maybe it’s getting close enough to better understand your mother-in-law. Or the co-worker with the Hoover personality that sucks the life out of you. Maybe it’s getting close enough to understand the culture your kids live in. Whatever it is for you, get close enough to be challenged. God will honor your effort. And you’ll be better for it.

By the way… up close, that spiked green Mohawk was really cool.

“…For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7