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!