By Tom Ehrich

“Well, that’s a Hong Kong beverage,” the clerk responded when I asked for a Chinese blend of coffee and tea that a Chinese friend had shared with me.


I’m not sure I grasp the fullness of his distinction. But I could see it mattered to him.

So it goes with many of the distinctions that matter deeply to us but are lost on others. All that pride I once took in being a North Carolinian, as opposed to a South Carolinian – poof, as nothing to a Far Westerner.

Why did my childhood friends in central Indiana (central, not southern Indiana, mind you) fail to grasp the fine-tuning of my collegiate identity in Massachusetts? All that effort wasted – as far as impressing anyone was concerned – when I bought a suit at Brooks Brothers, rather than J. Press. That club in which I took such pride – not even known outside my town.

I won’t mention the splitting of distinctive hairs in which churches engage.

If we’re going to be global citizens, we need to ratchet down meaningless distinctions – the caste system in India comes to mind – and hang our hats on the markers that Jesus laid down. Do we walk humbly? Do we love mercy? Do we do justice? Do we share what we have?

Those are the distinctions that matter. And not just on the global stage, but nearer home, as well. Does a better club membership save a dying marriage? Not likely. Does a tailored suit help a lost child? I don’t think so.

Kindness and generosity trump distinctions any day.