||Feeling like the odd woman out? God has you there for a
||Article By Pauline M. Johnson / /Empowering Everyday Women Ministries
When I first took on a position at a rapidly-growing tech firm several years ago, I knew the staff was
predominantly white and I was completely okay with that.
But being alright with something in theory and actually being thrust into that environment are two
different things entirely.
As an African-American woman who had grown up in a tight-knit community and attended schools
comprising mostly folks who looked like me, I never had to be the “other” in the room. On Sunday
morning, the most segregated day of the week, I worshiped with a sea of black folks in every shade.
I was around people of color all the time. With them, I felt a sense of community. Though there were
obvious differences, our history and cultural experiences have a common thread running through
them, which makes for an easy-going, familiar, particular way we communicate.
That’s why being plucked out of my comfort zone and plopped in the middle of a department where I
the sole black girl felt awkward initially.
I didn’t know it was a divine setup, especially because I felt like a fish out of water.
My music wasn’t their music. My humor wasn’t theirs. My food choices weren’t theirs. My interests
weren’t theirs. My perspective on social justice issues wasn’t theirs.
We were night and day, polar opposites, oil and water, for the most part.
I felt like the odd man (well, woman) out.
But then I met Amy, a petite (admittedly socially awkward and introverted) white woman in her late
twenties. She just stayed in her cubicle with her head down for the most part and worked. But one
day, the two of us were assigned to collaborate on a project.
I had never spoken to her and simply braced myself for another tense, forced encounter. But I got
the surprise of my life!
Amy was such a cool, funny, down-to-earth, nice person. And just like me, she felt misunderstood,
uncomfortable and like a misfit in this environment. She said she didn’t “get” many of our co-
workers, nor did they “get” her either. It didn't matter that they were of the same race.
After a few days, she shared more of her personal and family background, which was different from
mine, but we very similar personality-wise. The more time we spent together, the more we gelled.
We were very compatible and fit together like Lego blocks.
She, too, was a believer in Christ.
We started taking lunch together and hanging out sometimes after work. Once we finished our
project, which turned out wonderfully, we kept the friendship going.
I remember thinking to myself, Okay, God. I get it. You want me to see that commonality isn’t a
color. I knew the Lord was helping me release some of my preconceived ideas. If I had been too
close-minded to give Amy a chance, I would have missed out on a wonderful connection.
Today Amy remains one of my closest companions. Though I, an avowed Democrat, always tease
her and say, “I forgive you for being a Republican,” I don’t mind our differences. She is a loyal,
compassionate, caring, giving person. She was there for me through my mother’s sickness and
helped me through grief when my grandfather died last year.
I now know that God orchestrated our meeting to teach me something fundamental: It is possible to
find common ground with people that look, talk, live and even think differently from me. It’s a simple
and commonsense lesson, I know, but I didn’t reach that conclusion until I had a personal
So what about you? Are you struggling with being the “other” in an unfamiliar environment?
It doesn’t have to be a race thing.
Sometimes, you’re the only Christian; the only single person; the only college graduate; the only
one that didn’t finish college; the only single parent; the only infertile one. This could go on all day.
But whatever your “only” may be, if God has you mingling with those who don’t have a whole lot in
common with you, He’s teaching you a lesson, as well as them.
Learning to get along with and relate to people that aren’t like us is very important and possible.
We won’t click with everybody and that’s okay. But at least be open and willing to try. Pray and ask
God what He wants you to receive from the experience. He will lead, mold and help you through it—
even if the environment is a hostile one.
Who knows? You might need to cross paths with your own Amy, someone who will enrich your life
and vice versa. You never know; you might be an answer to their prayers.
Even though I moved on from that tech firm and into a new position that better maximizes my skill
set, there is something that isn’t so different about where I am today: It is still majority white.
While the racial makeup of the environment hasn’t changed, the difference is, my conversations
aren’t strained. My comfort-level with being the only black one in the room has increased. I have a
greater degree of understanding, patience and willingness to open myself up. I am also helping
colleagues to develop relationships with and foster more understanding of the “other” in meaningful
ways. That makes it all worth it to me.
God’s hand is all in this.
Still, when it comes to most of my colleagues, my music still isn’t their music. My humor isn’t theirs.
My food choices aren’t theirs. My interests aren’t theirs. My perspective on social justice issues isn’t
always theirs, either.
But the same God that created me, created them. He has been instrumental in helping us find
common ground on a lot of issues, because, after all, we need each other to make it.
Are you struggling in an environment where you feel misunderstood, overlooked, or even attacked?
God is with you in it. Let Empowering Everyday Women Ministries’ intercessory prayer team pray
with you for God’s favor, guidance and help. Click here to request prayer.