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Keeping Our Center ~ Day 132

I continue to be distressed and saddened by how polarized and divided our country is over almost every little thing. I’m not talking about simple disagreement over an issue. I’m talking about angry, hateful, mean attacks on people who think differently, be it over wearing masks, opening the schools, racial issues, politics, religion, sexual orientation or just about anything. We seem to have lost the ability to see one another as fellow human beings all trying to survive in this crazy, mixed-up world, all needing love and security, all needing to believe in our own worth.

Let me share a story with you from an old newsletter I once received: 

Author and professor John Westerhoff told a story about a conference of Roman Catholics and Protestants he once led in Northern Ireland. While clergy and lay leaders of both groups came together to discuss theological issues, children from both communities were invited to join in a time of shared recreation. The hope, of course, was that people who spent time working and playing together would begin to let go of their fears and suspicions of one another. 

Despite all the good intentions of the conference planners, Westerhoff confesses, the week was fraught with tension. Each day, he would begin by telling a Bible story about reconciliation. Yet as each day’s events wore on, antipathy and miscommunication continued to be far more common than mutuality and understanding. He grew increasingly discouraged.

Finally, one morning, a Roman Catholic monk elected to sit on the floor with the children during the morning Bible story session. The story happened to be the one of the hemorrhaging woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed. Westerhoff writes that after telling the story, he began to hear whispers coming from the other side of the room where the monk was sitting. 

A little Protestant girl, looking at the man’s strange garments, asked with mingled curiosity and urgency, “Can I touch you?”

“Of course,” the monk replied.

“I’m scared,” she answered. The monk looked puzzled, so she continued, “I’m scared because if my father knew I touched you, he might beat me.”

The monk considered this carefully, and then suggested that possibly her father wouldn’t have to know. The little girl pondered this for a moment. Then, gathering courage, she reached out her finger and touched him. The whole room had fallen silent to watch the interchange.

The little girl looked at her finger. Then she looked back at the monk. “Nothing happened!” she exclaimed. Tears filled the eyes of more than one person in the room. 

“Yes, it did” responded the monk. “You and I will never see the world the same again.”

 

We desperately need to stop seeing the world in the same way.

It is only through risking “touching” each other - reaching out past our fears and defensiveness to get to know one another - that we’ll begin to see past our differences. It is only by seriously trying to imagine ourselves in another’s shoes that we will begin to bridge the gap between fear, mistrust and defensiveness, and understanding and acceptance. 

Love & Light!

Kaye