After listening to Adichie speak at TED I thought of a story my close friend told me happened to him when we were young.
Growing up I was told that anyone who did not pray before going to sleep was a bad person. I was warned against becoming a bad child who did not pray. So growing up I just believed that everyone who was not Christian could not possibly be a good human being with genuine ambitions and a genuine dream. My friends were all Christians, on Sundays at Sunday school we would recite Psalm 23 with our teacher. We were the good ones.
As the years went by and I got to meet people who believed in very different things their spirituality was incomprehensible to me. How could they not believe in God and Jesus Christ I thought! There were the people my mother always used to talk about, the ones that needed to be brought into the light. They were blinded by the things of the world. I felt pity for them and I judged them.
Until one day, I was reading a novel (can’t remember which one) we had been given in class and this girl came up to me. She asked me my opinion on the book, I told her what I thought and then I asked her about her own thoughts. I remember listening to her and thinking that she was one of the most intelligent people I had ever heard speak. I was twelve then so I admit I had not heard a lot of intelligent people speak but her analysis of the book impressed me.
From then on I decided that she was going to be my friend. For six weeks we would sit together at break time, and share our food. In class she was my only competition and outside of class we would have fun playing on the merry go round as well as reading Harry Potter.
Then my birthday came up, it was during the week my mother promised to throw a party for me over the weekend. All my ‘good’ friends from church were invited of course and then my mother said I could invite one more person because Nyasha and his mother were going to be out of town that weekend and could not make it. I immediately called Tendai (my good friend from school) and asked her if she could come and she happily agreed. My mother never asked who I had invited to replace Nyasha.
When the day came, I was dressed up and people were coming with gifts and birthday cards. I remember when Tendai came, wearing a beautiful pink floral dress with a big box wrapped in gold. My mother saw Tendai walk in, I still can see her face as my mother asked her what church she went to. Tendai replied and said her family did not go to church, my mother took Tendai by the hand and escorted her and her gift back to the door. That day I never really understood what had happened but now I do.
My mother had grown up being told that non-Christians were vile and she had believed it. She failed to see people past their religious affiliations, to see people for what they had to offer. I refuse to continue this pattern, I welcome and seek Tendai’s in my life now, people who challenge my being and broaden my thinking and view of the world. People are complex with varied dimensions who should be explored and learnt from. I no longer want to buy into a single story because it is surely dangerous. You as well I am sure have bought into a single story ‘all Africans are poor’, ‘all gay people are drama queens’ , ‘only white people can really be rich’, ‘only black people listen to rap music’ the list is endless. Half-truths we have come to accept as the whole truth. The world looks bigger and much more colourful when you remove your lens and try see it though someone else’s way. You don’t have to abandon your lens but acknowledging that people see things differently is the essence of human equality and acceptance.