Strengthening Our Communities: In Love
“Welcome Christmas while we stand, Heart to Heart, and Hand in Hand”
—Dr. Seuss, “Welcome Christmas” lyrics
“The most important question in the world is, ‘Why is the child crying?'”
I love the Christmas story of a baby, born to humble beginnings, who grows up to help others in need: the poor, the sick, the weary, and the outcast. Eventually, this young child becomes a renowned spiritual leader who proclaims: “The kingdom of heaven is within” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the question is posed: “Who is my neighbor?” The answer: Those you stop to help, even your enemy.
The story of Jesus is not unlike the account of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) or the legend of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Both Siddhartha and Muhammad sought an end to human suffering. Sheltered by wealth as a boy, it is not until he is a young man that Siddhartha witnesses disease, decay, and death—by venturing out into the world beyond the palace walls. Muhammad, who becomes orphaned as a boy, early on expresses benevolence for human suffering in every form. Those who understand suffering recognize the tremendous need for compassion for all who walk this earth.
Black Elk’s vision of the Sacred Hoop teaches us that individual groups must join together to become whole. According to Black Elk, “And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.” With this prophecy, we remember that we are all connected. We are one. Our strength lies in unity. The ancient Goddess tradition likewise emphasizes the sacredness of the Circle—the moon, Mother Earth, and the spiraling Circle of Life.
How do we apply these spiritual messages to the violence in our communities? How do we apply them when individuals and families arrive in our homelands from far away places? How do we apply them when the people we love—along with the creatures and earth—grow sick from pollutants? How do we apply them when we learn of travesties across the globe?
Is it possible that like Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” when all of Whoville join in a circle singing, Welcome Christmas, our hearts really can grow bigger? It sounds simple and perhaps silly. But when is the last time you held hands with everyone in your community and joined together in love—without caring about someone’s religion, race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or place of birth?
Our cultural, race, religious, gender, and ethnic differences are not the enemies. The real enemies are: ignorance, greed, hate, fear, and prejudice. Alice Walker says, “I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.”
Beyond media news and movie stereotypes: How well do you know someone who is not of your religion? Someone who is from another country? Someone who is gender nonconforming? Someone who is hearing or visually impaired? Someone of a different race or ethnicity?
Expanding our hearts requires inner self-reflection, on-going education, and community outreach. I believe from the depth of my heart that we can learn to live together, ALL of us. Change will not happen in isolation. As noted by Gene Knudsen Hoffman (founder of Compassionate Listening): “Peace-making is a healing process and it begins with me, but it does not end there.”
Joining together, we can strengthen our families and communities. We can work toward building a world where all are free. And we can create a new story of a better future, beginning today.
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign