Saturday, December 12, 2015

A remarkable experience seeing the results of xenophobia

How fortunate I have been in my 90 years. I've never had to be fearful because of my race, religion or national background.  Never have I seen such extreme polarization in our country.  How difficult it must be for religious people of the Islamic faith to see/hear/feel the hatred spewed by political candidates and free speech on the social media.  Thus I felt it mandatory that I reach out to those Muslims who worship at my Christian church every Friday with a welcoming greeting.

I am proud that for many years one of the churches I attend has provided space for Muslim for their Friday afternoon prayers. Given the current state of hostility I didn't know if there would be protesters or not, but for my own personal feeling, I felt compelled to try to make the worshipers feel especially welcomed.

I was overwhelmed by the response to my simple greeting. As the crowd of some 50 to 100 men and women entered over a one hour period I had an opportunity to converse with a majority of them. One could easily see the apprehension in their eyes as they approached a stranger standing near the entrance! After an assuring handshake I was profusely thanked with expressions telling us how meaningful such a greeting was.

While I thought I was doing it alone, youthful workers and volunteers who had been serving food to the homeless since 6AM insisted on joining me. How marvelous to see the enthusiasm of youth in responding to various human problems. How remarkable to see cabdrivers taking time from making money, to see so many young  people, and folks from many different races and nationalities coming to the house of a different faith to pray to our common God.

How thankful I am for being taught another way to express friendship, greeting and love - other than a handshake - by gently touching my hand to my heart.