Okay so I want to use this picture one last time. It is a picture of me and some of my local colleagues at lunch several days before Christmas. In amongst the scattering of Christians of various stripes you will find representatives from the Jewish and Muslim community as well. When I posted this on Facebook slightly before Christmas Eve, this is part of what I said.
"Most folks don't realize (not willfully but I bet you haven't thought about it) that this area's religious (and secular) community is served by some really great people who work well together and genuinely enjoy each other's company. This isn't the first time most of us have sat around a table together. It won't be the last.
Present at this table are leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities as well as whatever we are at Eliot Church. We live in the same communities. Our kids go to the same schools. We experience the same divine presence and work to help others experience it too. There is diversity here. There is a diversity that we all should celebrate this Advent or whatever you might want to call the dark (I can't say cold) days at the end of a very long year."
After that I didn't give it too much thought. Or I wouldn't have except for the fact that people kept bringing up the picture to me. You see, it came as something of a surprise to many people that a group this diverse would get together and have lunch. It was usually a pleasant surprise for folks but surprising nonetheless.
However, as I mentioned in my original Facebook post, it isn't all that unusual for us to see each other. There is a monthly meeting that we try to attend (and I usually fail to attend). We work together on a variety of projects and initiatives. After all, the December meeting was partly to check in with each other and express support the Islamic community but also to celebrate progress on a community garden project the congregations are working on. Also, we see each other at public events. As I noted, our kids go to the same schools which means we go to the same kid functions.
All of this made me think about assumptions. Some assumptions are good. Some not so much. For example, there is the assumption in society that this group of people in this picture will not get along. The reasons for this are many. One obvious reason is that there are many religious people who DON'T like each other at all (just as there are non-religious people who don't like each other). Another is that, in most people's jobs, similar franchises are naturally considered competitors. Then there is the way religion is reported in our society as a sort of intellectual sporting event with teams and mascots. In this context our "Super Bowl" is that time in December that we just went through. These, I think, are the reasons that people are pleasantly surprised to find out that not only do we meet during December but that we see each other more often as allies rather than as enemies.
The whole experience made me think about assumptions. Most of us make assumptions about everything. There are social and religious assumptions. There are cultural assumptions. We make assumptions about science and relationships. We even assume what other people assume about us and others. Without doing some of this we would never get out of bed in the morning. However, there are times when we need to remain open to surprise. In our hyper-connected world certain assumptions have proven deadly.
I think my New Year's resolution this year will be to assume less. It sounds really pretentious to say but I mean it. I feel like I have become more closed minded lately. I can't say that this is true in areas that I know quite a bit about (like religion and the folks in the picture) but there are other ways where I have found myself being either dismissive or accepting of other people, places, and ideas. Maybe there is just more going on that points to what I am closed minded about! So here is to being more open to surprises in the future.
What is your resolution?
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