I was recently talking with some friends about the challenges of living cross culturally along the border of Mexico when they shared a revolutionary story from their own lives.
My friends belong to an affluent church in San Antonio, filled with the kind of folks you want to have as neighbors, who gladly feed your dog and pick up your mail when you are out of town. They are good looking, professionals and business owners, who jog in the morning and live in comfortable homes and drive nice cars.
Realizing their tendency to attract more people like themselves, and wanting to diversify, they began getting involved with the community in an apartment complex near their church building. You know the kind surrounded by a barbed wire fence that makes you wonder if it is there to keep the folks from outside coming in or the folks inside from coming out.
Initially their involvement was simple and consisted of offering transportation to those who wanted to attend church. But with one couple, Eddie and Joyce, things started to change. Eddie and Joyce, it seemed took the invitations to get involved in the church seriously. They began attending regularly and even showed up at social events.
Eddie, though he had no front teeth, could keep the crowd amused with his jokes. Joyce had the mind of a child and expressed her affection for her new friends by making crafts, (you know the kind that your kids bring home from Sunday school which you have to quietly throw away once they are sleeping, (it sounds harsh but you just can’t keep all that stuff)). After a while they even began inviting church members over to their apartment to share a Stouffer’s Lasagna, not realizing the discomfort that was obvious to everyone else. Most of the church had never set foot inside of section 8 housing and until that moment had never expected to.
While my friends were truly growing to love Eddie and Joyce (though they were scratching their heads at what to do with the growing mountain of Popsicle stick picture frames and paint by number boards that Joyce was giving them) they were befuddled.
“What does it look like to be friends with people who are so different from us?”
It my sound unkind.
We are quick to perhaps jump up in defense, “What do you mean, they are people just like you?”
But the truth is that we all have tendency to surround ourselves with other people like us. And we have the census data to prove it.
No matter if we believe abstractly in equality, the reality is we are more comfortable with people who look and talk like us and who have our interests and backgrounds. And while there isn’t anything wrong with feeling comfortable with whom we share much in common, it is also no wonder that America remains deeply segregated.
. . .
This week our reading group is finishing up The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.
Towards the end of her book which is mostly about being creative at home she adds an unexpected chapter entitled, “Integration.”
Her approach is entirely different than anything you would see in newspaper headline.
Her point is this,
We tend towards segregation, by race, gender, age, education, religion, economics, nationality. Our differences frighten us and make us uncomfortable, but if we want to work towards peace in the world can and should start at home.
And we can begin by doing something as simple as inviting over someone who is outside of our normal social circles and building a friendship with them. It isn’t much, it is far more than most of us are doing.
And it won’t come easily.
Relationships require work that most of us are not willing to do. It takes planning and preparation to connect with anyone, especially someone different from ourselves. We may have to think outside of the box and do something unexpected, plan a music night, or a park day, or read a book aloud, have a cultural dinner, a cooking class, or a movie night. Or maybe we can help during a time of need, give a gift, or plant a garden together.
Or maybe like my friends we can sit around eating lasagna and doing paint by numbers, wondering what is ever going to become of this, while at the same time knowing that this is exactly what makes us feel most alive.
We have looked to government mandates and social reform to bring people with vast differences together and we have seen it fail time and again.
The government can’t break the hardness of our hearts. Only Jesus can do that. And Jesus is in us.
This post is part of a series based on reflections from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here. Each year we read a collection of books on life, faith and family, to see our list click here. If you would like to read along, please subscribe and you will get new posts sent to your inbox as well as reading group updates. Feel free to comment or join us in our facebook group for more in depth discussion.
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