People Who Look Like Us

LegosGreat news: One of the newest LEGO sets features The Women of NASA.  Many of us know astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, but now we can also build vast LEGO worlds with computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, Hubble Telescope designer Nancy Grace Roman, and mathematician Katherine Johnson. And more inspiring still is that these five women portray the diversity of humanity.  They are brown, black, and white with every color of hair.  Three wear glasses. They are different ages. Their accessories are rockets and labs and control panels.

This is huge.

As children play with these LEGOS, they will subtly learn that this is what scientists can look like.  They can be women with long or short hair, light or dark skin, wearing lab coats or astronaut uniforms.

I never saw a female pastor until I was in seminary.  The fact that I even applied to seminary is rather extraordinary and I remember telling family members that I didn’t plan to be a pastor (because women can’t do that, right?) but maybe I’d be a hospital chaplain or a missionary because I’d heard of women who did those things.

President Obama tells a story in his autobiography about reading the Sears Christmas catalog as a child in Indonesia and first noticing that all the models (and Santa Claus) were white. Today, many American children have no memory of life without an African American President.

And as for church, most Christian denominations allow both men and women to be leaders.  Some allow LGBTQ people to be leaders. Some  of our congregations are led by people from a variety of races and ethnicities.

When we see people who look like us out in the world doing great things, we more quickly understand that we can do those things too. We can be astronauts or presidents or pastors. Our imaginations are less limited. We have mentors who teach us not only by their words. They teach us by their very existence.

I write these words still profoundly moved that the four highest elected offices in my denomination now include a Hispanic gay man, an African American man, a (young) African American woman, and me. I wonder who is watching us and coming to realize that they too could lead.

As we read books to our children, create presentations for our workshops, and select individuals to take leadership positions in classrooms and offices, let’s take note of the images portrays in those books, slides, and faces. Are we providing images that feature the diversity around us for the sake of reminding children and adults alike that they belong?  If LEGO can do it, we all can.

Read about LEGO Women of NASA here.


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