Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hope for the New Year

Last year I "resolved" to have wishes instead of creating ambiguous resolutions that last for a day. This year, I still refuse to create a resolution I probably won't keep. But I will go one step beyond wishes. As we enter a new year, I have new hope.

Everything around me seems to be leaning toward coming together--listening to each other...learning from each other...accepting each other for who they are...and challenging each other to move beyond.

On January 20, we will have a president who has lived in different countries and whose skin color has caused him to experience life in the United States differently than any president who has gone before him. His presence has brought out hatred and evil from some. His assumed political views have created excitement and frustration from both sides. His religious associations have caused people to question him from the "right" and the "left." ...but his unifying talk and consequential actions are demonstrating a much longer term vision for bringing people together.

I find it interesting that the state of our nation is also causing people to become interested in other cultures and countries besides "America." Several friends (including myself) have expressed a desire to know more about the people and the culture of the areas where our friends and family are engaged in a war and are, thus, reading more and paying a little more attention to international news. There seems to be a desire to understand more about the middle eastern cultures and are finding out what life is like for other people in other countries and of religions other than Christian. It seems we are beginning to notice that our Iraqi, Muslim, Indian, Pakistani, Shia, Sunni neighbors exist here in the United States.

The other day I watched a documentary called Beyond our Differences.

As I listened to people of various religions, cultures, and ethnicities speak, I was inspired yet again with a sense of hope for our new year. In the documentary, Desmond Tutu quoted the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Oh Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I remember singing a song like this in college...however, I remember that when I sang it, I thought about it as an action, something I could do for others, and not an application to my own life. In my religious upbringing, I was taught that I could take peace to someone else--the destitute people in Africa...the poor people in the inner city...the down and out in disaster areas. In my mind, it was "them" who needed me to teach them more about peace. I knew I was qualified because I didn't fight or intentionally harm people. I didn't think the song applied to me personally. It never occurred to me that there were ways I could change my own life to better embody that peace.

I never thought the true spiritual role and responsibility to carry peace within would be to make myself conscious of words that could be racially offensive, to educate myself about laws that disproportionately hurt people who are poor, to listen to people's stories of injustice, and to work with people to change that injustice.

This year I have hope that many more people will join on the path of seeing, understanding, and appreciating differences...and then going beyond them. I look forward to that in 2009.
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