Wednesday, January 21, 2009

But Who Is My Neighbor?

“And who is my neighbor?"
-Luke 10:29

A couple Saturdays ago a committee member bought up this passage from Luke during a discussion about the Washington Quaker Workcamps Program that I coordinate. Over the rest of the day I thought about this passage and how it related to my previous week.

In many ways, I had spent that week with my diverse neighbors without fully realizing it.

During the week, I started working on a Convergent Friends workcamp for high school age Friends that will take place here in July. The focus of the workcamp will be about living out the Friends Testimonies in the 21st Century, because through the past several years that has been a recurring theme in conversations I have had with Friends from all branches who are in high school and college.

Also about the same time I started emailing with a youth leader from a programmed meeting about organizing a workcamp for her meeting's youth group about what it means to be Quaker and Christian in the US and the impact it has and can have. In our dialogue about the workcamp, we had to overcome both of our preconceived notions about each other's background to find out our similarities. I realized during our conversation is that the workcamp I am planning for July will be based more on our common Quaker beliefs and letting our life speak than on the differences that divide us as a religion. Once we can see our similarities in each other we can start to see how we can connect on a deeper level.

On Tuesday that week, I participated in a peace vigil with a friend to remind the incoming Congress about the lives that are still being lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We marched in silent around the Capitol bearing the names of the dead. Ironically I had to leave this vigil early, because I had to attend a meeting at a military hospital located in NW Washington. At the meeting I asked about ways that the workcamp program could be involved with the hospital and what groups could do for the wounded soldiers and their families.

The next day I went to a very small memorial vigil for a homeless man, who I met at the Friends Meeting of Washington once. On Christmas Eve, he was found beaten to death. This murder largely went unnoticed. No articles in the Post. A Friend saw an article about it and she thought the name sounded familiar, so she let the listserv know. Two vigils were immediately planned for this man that the meeting barely knew. At the vigil I went to, three of us gathered in the cold rain to remember this man who died on the streets from a senseless act of violence.

As I thought back, I realized that week consisted of spending time with my neighbors, whether in person, by email, or in memory, whether I agreed or disagreed with them or even if I knew them at all, because they are fellow human beings, children of the Light, like me.

The week also left me with some queries for fellow Friends:

Why do we attend other churches for interfaith events in our communities, but not another Friends meeting or church of another branch than us down the street?

Why do we show compassion for the injured victims of war, but not for the injured soldiers that are sent to fight? Aren't they themselves victims of this war industry?

Why did a man have to die on the cold December streets? If we could organize two vigils to remember him by, why couldn't we invite him into our homes for a warm place to rest?

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