By: Lauren Mickler

It was easier to throw stones when I was at an arm's length.

As I sat back in my seat and observed the world over the picket fence of my little yard, everything seemed so clear, so cut and dry. Why didn't everyone simply work hard, get a good education, make wise choices, go to church and enjoy a nice little happy life? Why people chose to live their lives so differently than me was beyond my understanding. It was easy to talk about politics, it was easy assess situations, it was easy to know what "they" should do. "They" just didn't work hard enough, "They" just needed to know that their lifestyle choices were wrong, "They" just needed to stop playing the victim. 

It was easy to throw stones when I was at an arm's length. 

But then came the realization that the opinions I threw out with such confidence were not based in any real life experience of actually knowing and living life next to the ones that I so quickly assessed. 

So I moved in closer. 

I began to develop relationships. I stepped out of my fences. I touched lives and skin and hearts that looked different than mine. I listened. I heard stories. I shared meals and laughter and tears. I soaked in a new perspective. 

I found myself moved with feeling for the injustice that my friends had endured. I found myself understanding the chain of events that can transpire to push a person toward the desperation that fuels the choices that I had once looked down upon with exasperation. 

Suddenly, the women in the dirty hoodie asking for help had a name and a story. Suddenly, the young man who was involved in selling drugs was sitting at my table and making me laugh uncontrollably. Suddenly, I realized that just because I had never been victim to racial injustice didn't mean that it wasn't a frequent occurrence... I witnessed it happening to people I loved dearly. 

My perspective had changed drastically. I couldn't lobby judgement and harsh opinions over my nice little fence. I couldn't roll my eyes and wonder why people couldn't get it together. 

Because those that I had once deemed as "they" and "them" became part of me. And I found myself the learner. I found myself the one who's perspective needed to change. I found myself braiding my life and heart with others who's lives and upbringing looked nothing like mine. And it was beautiful. 

It's hard to wind up and throw stones when you're that close to someone. 

There's nothing wrong with right and wrong. There's nothing wrong with convictions and opinions. But before you give them out liberally, with an air of disbelief that anyone could see an issue from any other perspective than your own, I have a challenge for you.

If you're quick to give your opinion on a subject such as racial issues, women's rights, sexual preference, refugees, under-resourced families, the homeless, government policies that might not affect you but might greatly affect someone else, I challenge you to ask yourself this first: 

Do you have intimately close friends who've been directly wounded by racial issues? Are you closely connected to a women who's been treated unfairly? Do you have close friends who's sexual identity is different than your own? Have you invested in learning the stories of those desperately seeking refuge in our country? Do you have a close relationships with the families that live in poor neighborhoods or are homeless? 

Do you regularly share meals and cups of coffee and laughter and stories with the people who are inseparable from the issues you're so quick to post on social media about? 

If the answer is no, I ask you to move in closer. I ask you to breath the same air, to let your skin touch theirs, let their stories and life become part of your own, I ask you to embrace. Because maybe, just maybe, you might see a different perspective. You might move with more compassion. You might approach it all differently. You might be less inclined to generously douse your social media accounts with your staunch positions and unbendable opinions. Maybe your position will change, maybe it won't. But I am willing to bet that your posture towards these subjects will change drastically. 

So often the people that liberally dole out sentiments that sound something like: Get it together or stop whining and playing the victim are the ones who've never walked the road before. Never had first hand experience with the issues that they see so black and white. 

How would your opinions change if it was a close family member or loved one involved in the issues you take a passionate and harsh position on? What if it was your father who'd been treated unfairly because of his skin color? What if your mother had worked her fingers to the bone only to receive significantly lower pay than her male co-worker while being sexually harassed in the work place? What if your sister sits down over coffee to tell you that she identifies as homosexual? What if it was your wife and young children seeking refuge in a safe country because of the peril and danger they faced at home? What if you it was your daughter left homeless on the street, begging for food and shelter? 

What if it was your loved one? 

So make them your loved ones. Make the ones that you see as "them" and "they" your brothers, sisters, daughters, friends, and family. Share meals. Share laughter. Share dreams. Share hopes. Share stories. And then see what you have to say. 

You can't throw stones when you're embracing someone.