a note from Erica Henderson

October 1, 2018

Hello, my name is Erica and I am Compassion’s target demographic.

Prior to my internship at Compassion, it had been years since I had analyzed my own ethnicity and what diversity I could provide to the world through my perspective. Coming from a mixed-race background of both African American and Caucasian ethnicities, my worldview is a blended lens of color. My identity could never be properly placed in one ethnicity, as the Lord knitted me together directly in the middle. Throughout my childhood, I was aware of my unique position and plagued my parents with questions as I viewed them as the source of my internal/external predicament. My mother would often respond with the same sentence, “It doesn’t matter what color you are, honey; Jesus is color blind.” Although I love my mother very much and still consider her a wise source of counsel, I have more recently challenged that observation.

Our creative Designer God so acutely orchestrated our inner workings to accomplish simple, yet somehow complex everyday tasks, so why would He stop there? I believe that we, humanity, in our outward uniqueness and complexities collectively create an accurate image of our Creator who desires our differences. Each ethnicity brings a piece of the puzzle that will be presented as a masterpiece at the foot of His throne in eternity. Jesus isn’t color blind, He is the Producer of our array of pigments, the Creator of color.

With the privilege of serving as the intern for the African American Relations team to this summer, I hopped on the whirling AART train and headed down the track of not only incredible professional experience, but also of self-discovery. Difficult questions of how to better engage our target audiences have spun cycles around my thoughts, often leaving me disoriented and pondering my own perspective. I would leave meetings and double look at my reflection in mirrors.

Wasn’t I, a 22-year-old African American Christian woman, part of the generation we sought after? What were my values and positions, and why weren’t other members of my ethnicity and age group vying for the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible organization?

Well, Compassion, I wish I could give you an answer to those questions. What this summer did help me to discover, however, was to learn to seek a diversity of perspectives in my own life and value each one individually.

Our global society is made up of miniature communities, each with its own circle of influence. Organizations such as Compassion, like mirrors, can be reflections of the greater toil occurring in our world on a microcosmic scale. Although I do not pretend to understand the complexities of racial conflicts in our society, I can provide the fusion of my perspective. Having spent this summer interacting with historically African American communities as a mixed-race individual, I often felt like my eyes were constantly crossed as my worldview shifted from one viewpoint to another. Exhausted from this charade, my fellow interns would inquire about my experiences and listened intently to the internal battle for my racial identity (thanks, guys). After reflecting on a summer of these conversations, I recognized how valued I felt when I was listened to and how it truly felt to be heard. I think that many communities of color, regardless of culture and background, desire exactly that: to be listened to, to be heard, to be understood, and to be valued for their perspective.

So, Compassion, I want to leave you with this series of contemplations and, perhaps, challenges.

  • First and foremost, as an organization and a microcosmic community, Compassion has an opportunity to set an example to the society that surrounds us. With the diversity of children around the world that we serve, we can grow to acknowledge the pockets of diversity we have in our backyard. Let’s not shy away from the conversations surrounding the uniqueness in our backgrounds and instead strive to better listen, hear, understand, and value the diversity of perspectives we have in our midst.
  • Secondly, I want to remind you, individual employee of Compassion, that your perspective matters. Your worldview is unique from your neighbor’s and that is a true gift of our Creative King. Thank you to everyone who took the time this summer to value my perspective, especially as a member of Compassion’s target demographic.
  • Finally, I charge you to diversify the perspectives in your life. Seek those individuals, especially in our workplace, that may see the world differently than you do and treat them as the valuable evidence of creation that they are. I guarantee that unique perspective can give you an exclusive glimpse of our Creator, who loves to reveal Himself to us through His creation.
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