Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Gift of Diversity

I am amazed how easy it is to go through life without the slightest awareness of how rich life can be.  We all know the effect the erosion of routine can have on life.  We can all bring to mind, I’m sure, those individuals who are chronic complainers about life in general.  I wince because I can well recall those times I am aware of my own whimpering. 

I am not talking about all the poor souls to whom tragedy and deep suffering have befallen.  They deserve all mercy and understanding we and God can muster.  We all know that life can sometimes be cruel and deal folks unseemly blows.  I can only pray that ultimately grace and love have the last word. 

However, the last couple days I have become delightfully aware of the gift of diversity I have enjoyed.  On the surface it might not seem like it.  The gift of diversity has brought its own fair share of long hours and some hard work.  But the gift of diversity has been present nevertheless.   

The gift of diversity showed up in a turban and the wearer of the turban brought four others with him.  Of course, I am not presenting the turban as the gift, but it certainly symbolizes the gift of diversity that has landed in my lap, so to speak.  The wearer of the turban is a friend of mine whom I met on a trip to India.  He is Sikh.  And he brought with him some friends who are Hindu. 

Knowing a Sikh and a couple Hindus certainly does not make me special.  But I can say my young life growing up in rural Indiana was devoid of Sikhs and Hindus.  I have no clue when I would have met my first Sikh, but surely I was in my 20s at least.  Probably the same thing goes for Hindus.  Fortunately, life in America is such that it is more difficult to avoid meeting folks from other religious traditions. 

But I dare say, not all of us understand this as a gift of diversity.  In fact, some folks may be put off by diversity…or even fear it.  Doubtlessly, American lives have been deeply affected by 9/11, as it is called.  Terrorism---and the threat of terrorism---is a hallmark of our culture and has unfortunately caused too many to live a fear-based life. 

As one who takes the spiritual path seriously, I want to find a way to be cognizant of terrorism and its insidious cancer-like effect on the body politic.  However, I do not want to live a resigned life of fear.  I want to be able to embrace and enjoy a vibrant life of love.  And the possibilities of that vibrancy are enhanced by the gift of diversity. 

I delight that my Sikh friend with his turban, bracelet and other signs of his faith can come into my life.  His smile is an antidote to terrorism.  His handshake is a welcome, not a threat.  His embrace is life-enhancing, rather than life-depressing.

When I think about the gift of diversity that so many of us have, I see three possibilities presented.  One possibility is we will be threatened or fearful of diversity.  This has an unhappy ending---always.  The second possibility is we will remain unaware or ignorant.  It is easy to be present in the midst of diversity, but not really be present!  This is a missed opportunity. 

The final, and my preferred, possibility is to be aware of the gift of diversity, embrace it, and revel in its richness.  For a couple days I have been afforded this possibility.  To be given the possibility is nothing unless I actualize it.  Love is only a word unless one acts lovingly. 

Perhaps God’s deal is this stark: love or fear.  And each of us---and, finally all of us---does the deal of life in love or fear.  And part of God’s deal in the context is always diverse…Sikhs, Hindus, Catholics, Quakers, and all the rest. 

You are in it, too, but are you really in?            

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