I hate to say it, but lately I’ve been having a hard time with my parents. We have these real ‘cool’ neighbors, and they decided we couldn’t be friends with them anymore.
My sister Kate, 14, really likes the girl next door. Her name is Rachel. I’m 16 and David is my age and he is really ‘cool.’ The Rothmans moved in about a year ago, and at first my parents didn’t say anything. But about two months ago, right after Christmas, they started giving both Kate and me trouble”
They said no to Kate when she wanted Rachel to come over to study, and every time Kate was invited over there, my Mom said, “You have to clean your room! or You have homework to do.”
A week ago, she told me that I couldn’t visit David anymore, I almost blew up, “Mom, we are best friends. We’re both on the Math Team at school. We like to play music together.” I thought how much David and I like to jam, with him on the piano and me on the guitar. We also like the same kind of music. “What is this about?” I asked.
She said, “It is hard to explain, Mike. You’re not old enough to understand.”
I lost my temper. “That’s crazy. I think you’ve flipped”
“Don’t talk to your mother that way. Wait until this evening. Your father will explain our decision.” That’s what she always says when I disagree with her.
That night after supper, I was doing my history homework, and my Dad called me into the dining room. “Mike, I know you like David, but you need to spend your free time with your own kind.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, last Friday night was the last straw. You told us about the special dinner at David’s. They said special prayers. I don’t want you saying prayers from a different religion.”
“Dad, that is called Shabbat, the beginning of their day of rest. That’s their Sunday. And they didn’t make me join in their family prayers. They were just sharing a cultural custom with me. They weren’t trying to convert me.”
My mother came into the room, “You sound like you know more about their religion than you do about yours. The next thing we know you will be going to the temple or to their house for Passover. It isn’t right for you to do that.”
Dad added, “And then you will want to date Rachel or a girl you meet there and what does that lead to?”
My mother added, “The Rothmans are Jewish. They don’t even celebrate Christmas. In December, I said ‘Merry Christmas’ to Mrs. Rothman but she replied, “Happy Holidays”. She doesn’t even say ‘Merry Christmas’. Then she told me how they celebrate Hanukah. That is when I began to question whether you and Kate should be so close with that family.”
“That doesn’t make sense. David and I are friends. I don’t care if he is Jewish and I’m Catholic. What does that matter?” I was getting really upset again.
“Jews are different. They go to temple. We go to church. They eat different food. They celebrate different holidays. I bet they wouldn’t want to marry non-Jews,” said my Mom.
“I hate to say this,” I spoke slowly, like I was talking to an eight-year-old, “but you both sound prejudiced. At school, especially in Civics class and in History, they teach us that prejudice is wrong. Have you forgotten about the Civil Rights Movement or the Holocaust?”
“We are just protecting you from making terrible mistakes.”
The next day, I saw Father Collins, my Mom’s cousin and a priest at our church. The Sunday before I had heard him give a great sermon in church about accepting people from other cultures and religions. I invited him to come over for Sunday dinner. Mom likes him a lot; they grew up together. After dessert, I said, “Father, please explain your sermon about accepting other cultures.”
Father Collins hesitated, “Jim and Lucille, did you folks miss my sermon two last week? I talked about how we need to question our attitudes and our actions about minority groups and other cultures. You know a lot of people from many different places are moving here now, and we must learn to get along,”
Kate broke in, “Yeah, our English teacher said that there are over 100 kids in our high school whose first language is not English. She said they are from 20 different countries, and at least 10 religions. Isn’t that something?”
“Good point, Kate, Father said. “We need to look at what we have in common, not at how we are different. If we don’t get to know people from other groups, it is hard to accept them. And what will it lead to? I hate to preach, but just think, remember World War II and what the German Nazis did to the Jews all over Europe?”
“And to the Gypsies, the mentally ill and anyone else they saw as ‘the other’’ I added. I knew all this because I had just studied it in 20th Century history.
This really did work. Mom and Dad ‘backed off’ from their decision about our seeing the Rothmans. In fact, they invited them to our next big Sunday dinner.
A. Vocabulary: Be sure you understand these words: use your dictionary.
1. Tolerance and acceptance: Minority groups, prejudice, attitudes.
2. Historical: Holocaust, Civil Rights Movement
3. Slang or colloquial: to jam (to play music together informally; backed off (to change one’s direction); flipped (to go crazy); the last straw (last in a series of bad things); your own kind (your group).
4. Practical words: celebrate, convert, preach, sermon, cousin, in common.
B. Role Play: Create dialogs for the following situations. Variation: change characters.
1. Mike, Mom: She tells him he can’t see David anymore.
2. Mike, Kate: They talk about their parents’ new rules about not seeing the Rothmans.
3. Kate, Rachel or Mike, David: Trying to tell the other about their parents’ new rules.
4. Mike, Mom, Dad: They argue about the new rule.
5. Father Collins, the family: He explains the problems of intolerance and prejudice.
1. Write parts of Father Collins sermon in the church.
2. Write a full description of one person, or a short description of all of them.
3. Write a short paper for school about this problem.
4. Write a summary of the anecdote.