Last night I started rewatching Stranger Things – which is a strange thing in itself. Not only is this something I just never ever do, but when I started watching it I wasn’t even sure I’d want to carry on – it felt like an interesting kind of weird story but one that I was watching in an emotionally detached kind of way, just curious as to what on earth is going on but not allowing myself to care about the characters, because how could I know which of these characters is ok and which is going to turn out to be some evil monster disguised as a human? And yet…
Somehow, as the story unfolded (warning: here be spoilers) and it started to feel a bit less weird – with explanations coming through the science teacher and the boys and the sister of that woman who can’t talk – my emotional shield was dropped and by the end of the last episode, the characters were people I felt I knew and mostly liked and cared about, and when it ended I was all: but I’m not ready to say goodbye to all these people!
And isn’t this, in a way, what happened in the story? People coming into contact with others who seem weird, and gradually these people grow on them – kids who are called freaks by others at school suddenly meeting a girl who they react to in the same way, but over time she becomes someone they care about; a girl who comes into contact with a shy and reclusive guy and finds that he’s actually really nice; the policeman coming to realise that Joyce is actually not going crazy…
And those boys – they would probably have seemed a lot more weird to me if it wasn’t for some of the people I’ve been getting to know on social media in the past few years, who I’ve heard talk about the world of gaming, a world I knew nothing about before I joined Google+. I’d never heard of Dungeons & Dragons! Nor did I know about people who get all nerdy about the differences between Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In the five years I’ve been hanging out on G+ I’ve been learning about some “stranger things” and so when I saw these boys playing, I could relate more to the world they inhabit.
The reason I find this worth talking about is that I feel it’s such a helpful thing for overcoming prejudice – we all have some kind of bias, some groups of people that seem, for various reasons, strange to us. It can be racial or ethnic but it can also be cultural, it can be to do with how people dress or what hobbies they’re into, what kind of music they like, what food they eat – all sorts of things. And I’ve seen in my own life how these barriers can get knocked down by simply getting to know people – hanging out with individuals from a different culture and letting personal experience be my teacher, learning to get past the differences and to see each person as an individual human being.
We’re all weird to some people. (I know I am!) But a stranger is simply a person you haven’t got to know yet. I’m a shy and socially-awkward introvert, so getting to know strangers doesn’t come naturally to me, but now and again someone gets through my shell and it’s great :)
Of course a huge factor in being able to cope with the fact that others see me as weird is that I know God loves me as I am. And that’s also part of why I can accept other people with their weirdness – Jesus does! He spent time socialising with people who were totally unacceptable to society around him. He doesn’t wait for us to become normal and respectable before reaching out to us with his love – weirdos, freaks, prostitutes, drug addicts, criminals, whoever we are! even nerdy kids who are into science and D&D and LotR :)
and even me!