As I have said many times, my family and I celebrate Christmas. I grew up in a very small town and everyone there was Christian — protestant to be more accurate. That was my norm and I knew nothing about any other religions or beliefs in the world.
I was so fortunate to be loved and to grow up in a community of really good people. I guess my youth still stands as my ‘gold standard’ as an example of what Christian people should be. Kind, caring and truly loving each other.
As I grew up, I learned that people belonged to many different religions. Most of which I had no knowledge of at all. My parents were steadfast in their beliefs and like so many people, believed their beliefs were the ‘right’ belief.
Throughout my life, I have been fortunate enough to move around and experience the world in a way I never would have, had I never left home. I had the opportunity to meet such good people that were Catholic or Muslim or Jewish and while their beliefs were different than mine, they were in many ways spiritual in the same way I was.
My life has been so enriched by learning more about people who are different than I. As spiritual people, we all share so much. We strive to be good people in a world where we are bombarded by a lot of negativity and hate.
If we all believe that our belief system is the ‘right one’, why do we worry so much about what other people believe? Why do we build walls to protect ourselves from other beliefs if we feel confident in ourselves? What is the threat? Why must there be hate? What are we so afraid of?
I have been so fortunate in having amazing friendships with people that I met online. I have met many of them in person, but there are many more that I have never met. We are all so different. Different ages. Different occupations. Different beliefs. Different locales. Different ages.
Through these relationships, I have learned a lot about friendship. I have learned we are all more similar than we are different. I have learned we all want the same things — peace, love, happiness, laughter, and connectedness.
Yesterday, when we returned home there was a package waiting here. It was addressed to me — yay! I wasn’t expecting anything in the mail so I was thoroughly surprised. Since we do not exchange gifts with our family anymore, I knew it was not from anyone in my family.
After reading the return address, I realized it was from a new friend I met a few months ago in an online writing class. I was overcome thinking that she took time out of her life to send and share something with me.
Inside the box, I found a beautiful handmade card that said ‘Invited’. There were eight lovely gifts inside — one for each day of Hanukkah. I was invited to participate in a few her customs and her rich, rich history. What a touching gesture.
I cannot tell you how touched I was. I have been following her blog and learning so much about the beauty of her history and her traditions. I have also felt the pain she has felt with the recent rise in anti-semitism. It is a tough time in our country and to stand by your beliefs in the face of violence says a lot about one’s strength.
So, my friend — I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so blessed to count you as one of my dear friends. As with so many of my online friends, I wish we lived closer, but I am so thankful to have you in my life no matter the distance. The journey in my life led me here to this place and this time and I am so grateful.
“Our differences are beautiful, yet sometimes connection requires us to focus on our similarities, like the fact that we are all trying, all struggling, all wanting to be seen and to be loved. Perhaps if we start there, with this basic understanding of what it means to be alive, we will grow in our connection to one another and learn to love the beautiful differences that embody our improbable human reality.”