It seems that we live in a culture that is deeply divided. Our politics reflect that, and many of our conversations. It’s easy to divide people into “us” and “them”. We can feel relaxed and comfortable around “us”, and only keep our guard up around “them”. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
But there is another level just below the surface, and most of us can easily tap into it. Recall a natural disaster in recent history, or a time that a neighbor experienced a tragedy. Look at the many ways people came together to help one another – strangers becoming friends. It’s not really that hard to look a layer or so beneath the surface differences to our shared humanity. It’s not hard, but it takes awareness.
Some call it being “created in the image of God”. Some call it oneness. Some call it love for neighbor. Whatever you call it, I think in times like these it’s important to exercise that way of seeing life.
There are many ways to do that of course, but for me being able to serve those people who might seem to be different from me and have needs that might be different from the needs I have is helpful. As a pretty busy guy with more interests than time in the day, it helps me to schedule in regular times to push back on my own desires and make time to see others as my neighbor. And it helps to make the needs of my neighbor a priority. It helps to understand their stories, and see if at the intersection of our stories I might be able to participate in a win-win. An encounter with a person I might normally see as “them” might just be what I need to look beneath the surface to that place of love. In helping them, I win too.
It’s also very helpful for me to associate with people who make time to serve others – whether in a career or as a volunteer. When I “rub elbows” with people who see more deeply that we are one, I’m made a better person. I’m less judgmental, I’m more gracious, I’m just plain nicer, and I’m definitely happier. That is why I spend some time each month helping Urban Ministries remain a highly accountable, fiscally sound organization. I love having the opportunity to use my professional skills and experience to benefit our community.
But I’m quite sure I receive much more than I give.