Authenticity and Acceptance by Ethan Harvey

Our generation is obsessed with authenticity. We want real food, real sugar, real music. We want our organic Chipotle, locally-grown fruits, sustainable shampoo, handmade, hometown, biodegradable, non-GMO, fair-trade everything, even to the point of being the generation that is slowly putting the biggest fast-food-giant out of business. However, our desire for authenticity stops there—on the outside. If we look outwardly real, then no one can tell that our hearts are still as fake as they come, right? In a fantastically ironic turn of events, our desire for the authentic is only skin deep. We want to eat, drink and use something real, while our relationships, goals, beliefs, and lives are as shallow as they come. This spring break, I had the opportunity to witness true authenticity, and to be challenged to recreate that authenticity in my own heart, as well as my own life.

As a kid, religion was shoved down my throat at every possible moment, to the point that when I had grown old enough, I came very close to giving it up completely. It wasn’t until my youth pastor showed me what being a follower of Christ really meant that I realized the religion which had been pushed onto me for most of my life had nothing to do with the real Jesus, or with authentic faith for that matter. During our spring break week in Dallas, we had the opportunity to work with refugees from all over the world, teaching them about English and the life of Jesus. Each day, I was reminded of authentic love, acceptance, growth and community. It was incredible to see these “outcasts” from all over the world—once forced to leave their lives, homelands and families behind—come together as a loving, accepting and growing community.

Most of the refugees came from varied religious backgrounds, cultures and regions, however, they had fantastic and boundless love for each other that was a blessing to witness. I often find it hard to love my neighbor here, in America for the dumbest of reasons. But there, in that community of lovely people, forced to the margins, I saw true love. I saw an Orthodox priest from Ethiopia invite a Muslim woman to our table to share ideas and notes about superlatives without even a second thought. I saw people from cultures that have never seen eye-to-eye share clothes, and people that had every reason to be spiteful and upset share laughter with others in the same situation. I saw true love.

If these people (forced into a new country, trying their best to learn a second, third or even fourth language while facing incredible hardship) can be so full of love for one another, what is my excuse? Among a multitude of other things, my week in Dallas over spring break most certainly challenged me to do my best to look more like love every day. To care authentically, from the inside out, even when it seems hard.