Labels. They are EVERYWHERE.
Labels are affixed to our clothing and glued to the sides of our food packages. They are displayed on the front of buildings, in our online dating profiles, and on our driver’s licenses.
Most of all, they exist, prominently and for most of us, for the balance of our natural lifetimes, inside our heads.
They separate you from me, and us from them. They train us to see opposite genders, differing sexual preferences, and different faith backgrounds as separate and apart, desirable or undesirable, dangerous or safe.
In all of these labels, we are frequently so busy staring at what we think are different species of trees that we miss the unified forest we form together in our shared humanness. Beneath all those labels, underneath all of our individual surface differences, what we will universally find is a single human being deep inside each of us – a human being who feels, thinks, fears, cries, loves and dreams right alongside ourselves.
On the one hand, labels can be helpful. For instance, it can be mighty uncomfortable (and all too, um, revealing) to misread the labels displayed on the front of a set of twin public restroom doors. In the same way, if you are allergic to a certain food, you for sure want a label on what you are about to consume that clearly states “don’t eat this!” – that sort of thing is life-saving to my precious two-year-old nephew, Gavin.
Perhaps most interesting to note, labels are not bad, harmful, or unwelcome on their own.