It is rare for there to be a knock on my door before 9:00 am! My Muslim neighbor, Abdul, stood there. Big smile. Apologizing that he seemed to ‘blow me off’ when I waved at him earlier while walking my dog. He explained he was late in getting his autistic son to school and a phone call had just come in. We exchanged hugs and he began chatting. We meandered to topics of the mezuzah on my doorpost, blessings given by Muslims, how the kingdom of God is in the unseen- for both the Muslims and Christians…. How all in our neighborhood have similar challenges while all of us are different…

Differences! Absolutely! Caucasians, Indian, Ethiopians, Chinese, Black. Architects. Engineers. Chef. Construction worker. Therapist. Physical trainer. Postal worker.
Francis who is tormented due to believing she was a Nazi guard in a former life. Mary, who loves her alcoholic husband. Kay, whose husband died days before the twins were born. Abdul and Latvia whose severely autistic son is having seizures. Mark, who is struggling with brain cancer. Tom, who is socially awkward.
All with our different perspectives in life. All with our different struggles. All in need of understanding and compassion and care. All needing to be included. To belong safely in the neighborhood.

How did it come to be that Abdul would feel comfortable enough popping in unexpected? It is not because of our differences. But because we value inclusion above our differences. Our differences result in an expansion of diverse interaction and growth in community. Latvia and I have enjoyed numerous cups of tea together. Francis and I have listened respectfully to each other’s spiritual journeys. I have enjoyed the twins. Mary and Sam happily loan me their ladder. Mike has welcomed me into his cancer journey. Tom tells me of airplane engines and his dreams to build a hotel.

Brine Brown talks of the difference between “Belonging” and “Fitting In”. We truly belong when we are safe to not fit in. When we can be our unique selves and not experience shame or intolerance.

There is much division in our society at this time in history. Intolerance of those who are intolerant. Prejudice. Fear of those who we deem different. Subtle and not so subtle hatred towards those who make us feel threatened and insecure. Judgments and declarations of what we staunchly believe is right.
And tragically, as Brene states, we tend to bond over what we commonly hate. This brings further dissention and exclusion. A lack of true belonging. A lack of safety in community. A lack of environment where all can grow and expand in love and our humanity.

May I continue to expand in offering space to belong. To offer inclusion rather than exclusion. To celebrate differences and enjoy all of God’s people!


  • Maribeth, Thank you for being the open arms and heart to your neighbors and to all of us friends who have had the great pleasure to know you. You bring out beauty and joy and connectedness where ever you go. Bigs hugs to you dear friend!

    • Thank you for your encouragement, you wonderful friend!

  • Hit me right between the eyes of my heart, Maribeth. I have neighbors I have avoided because of our differences. I live right in the middle of a hornet’s nest of strong personalities and even stronger opinions. Truth be told, it brings up too much old pain to continue to love. I realize our sense of feeling safe and at home comes straight from The Father, who accepts and loves us even in our dirt. I am challenged to realize I belong (in His loving arms) in spite of not belonging in this place I call home. I must continually ask for courage to put my roots down so deep inside this knowing that I might be a safe and accepting person who reflects His love.
    I admire that so many seem to feel safe and accepted by you.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    • Jayne, your note gives me a glimpse into your heart of courage. it certainly takes courage to risk welcoming others into our environment! And it certainly takes capacity to handle to pain that can gurgle up as well as the repercussions that might come from those we are ‘
      welcoming’! Thanks for your encouraging words…. and may you have glimpses into how our God’s eyes are sparkling at you!

      • Thanks for this, Maribeth. I wish you still lived up the hill from me so I could drop by to swap stories with you. I so see how you’ve enlarged your tent; the fruits of which have been to invite those who need your special gift to visit this canopy of tender knowing

  • I loved this. loved the picture you painted of your neighborhood, of the city, state and country and perhaps world we live in. Appreciated all the examples of real life struggle people go through. The different tones they have, but struggle all the same. Loved picturing you chatting with all of them.

    C.S. Lewis wrote something once about how afraid we all can be of someone ‘stealing our time’. I feel this in me at times. Boundaires are good and very needed, sure, but then there is the flow of community. Presence. Relationship. So Good.

    “We truly belong when we are safe to not fit in. ” Beautiful! Bravo!!!


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