WHOEVER DESTROYS A SOUL, IT IS CONSIDERED AS IF HE DESTROYED AN ENTIRE WORLD. AND WHOEVER SAVES A LIFE, IT IS CONSIDERED AS IF HE SAVED AN ENTIRE WORLD. -- The Talmud
It is the beginning of vacation, and I spent part of it listening to my good friends at TED Talk Radio Hour. This week's episode was about reconciliation. A concept much needed here in America, where everyone is feeling a little bruised and sore from our recent fractious election. Now, more than ever we really need to come together.
The Radio Hour, gathers a few TED Talks that center on a common theme, and includes excerpts of those talks. There were four talks included in this episode, and I went and listened to several of them in their entirety. My good pal, Terina is an avid podcast listener, just like me and so I've included a link to TED Talks Radio Hour below, if you are at all interested.
I was thinking about that famous quote from the Talmud that I listed above today. One of the speakers tells the impact of hatred on her family. She referred to it as a Faith Killing, and that seemed so profound to me. That's what we should call it whenever anyone is persecuted or attacked in anyway for their faith. It isn't a Hate Crime. It is a crime against faith. And what's more, as a person of faith, shouldn't I be the first person to come to the aid of any crimes against faith. What difference does it make if that person is Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. As a person of faith, I should be quick to defend, comfort and protect other people of faith.
Which made me think about another idea that it is the concept of "others" that brings division. If I can look at something that is happening in the world as something that is happening to "others", then I can distance myself from their suffering and troubles. It isn't my problem. It isn't my concern.
One of the stories from the TED Talk is of a woman, who was able to diffuse a life and death situation with a gunman, by being able to see past his violent, life-threatening behavior, and make connections with him. She saw him not as a violent "other" but rather someone who was suffering and in pain, as she also had been in her lifetime. Her well of empathy and understand literally saved lives.
It is so easy to dismiss those with different views. It is easy to look across the way, and see other people as "others" - people we don't understand and don't really want to try to understand. They just aren't like us. I am guilty of this. I can't connect to people who really, truly believe that interracial marriage is wrong, or that people from a different culture have a "lower" type of culture.
Now, more than ever, we need to find common ground wherever we can. We need to look for ways to connect. Our government isn't going to do it for us, and many fear, our government may begin making it more difficult for all its citizens to come together. Empires flourish in strife and discord, and authoritarians gain power in a land filled with fear.
I can't remember anymore if this is a story that I heard or read, but it was about a devout Muslim woman who went to a hairdresser. The hair dresser worked with her to ensure that no males were present to see her with her head uncovered, but while her hair was being cut, another customer a few stations over, was railing against Muslims who "are planning to kill us all!" It proved to be a very awkward situation, but the Muslim girl, sent over a note. She offered to be this woman's first Muslim friend. The note said something along the lines of, "It is clear that you have concerns and want to know about Muslims as people who walk the earth with you. But it is also clear that you have not received correct information. Let me be your first Muslim friend." What an amazing response - not to increase tension and misunderstanding but to clarify it.
I tend to be more rash, and generally regret my words later. It is easy to dismiss someone than to offer to make a connection. Which is a particularly dumb mistake for me to make. I live in the world of the classroom, and I base my entire life on the idea that understand leads to peace. It is when my students feel unheard or misunderstood that the most drastic behaviors occur. It is when we discuss, explain and clarify that things settle into peace. How foolish not to recognize that if the classroom is a small community then the concepts that work best inside that small community will also work for the world at large. What if we could all come together and discuss when there is a dispute over recess equipment, or rights, or land and talk it out with a mediator to guide us? What if all of us were given a timeout to reflect and think when our behavior was not acceptable? What if we could be mindful, on a global scale, of things we said and did?
Reconciliation is a really old concept, and it is something we all need; every single one of us, every single day.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.