Friday, November 9, 2012

How Do You Bring People Together?

My two back neighbours are polar opposites in nearly every way - race, religion, worldview, culture, histories - and do not interact with each other at all. It is like this in many suburbs across the new South Africa as cultures are thrown together and forced to live side by side. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is to maintain your fences, keep you head down, and stick to your own little world. This avoids flared tempers, heated arguments, and even wars. It also avoids dialogue, mutuality and true community.

I can't blame my neighbours. When I look at them, my first thought is that there is no way those two will ever see eye to eye. They both mourn losses, but completely different ones. They both feel marginalised, but in opposite ways. They could easily point fingers at one another, blaming the other for their problems. They could not discuss politics, values, music, food, or work in an effort to find common ground; they are that different.

But they are both human. They both have families, hopes, dreams, heartaches, gifts, skills and life experiences in which they could learn from one another. And for better or for worse, they're neighbours. I keep wondering what it would take for them to begin a respectful dialogue, to suspend judgement for one brief moment and really listen to each other...

Sometimes tragedy has a unifying effect. When people truly love and serve others in humility like Jesus did, that also has a unifying effect. Put the two together and you have an inspirational story. I keep trying to think of other ways besides extreme challenges and Jesus that can unify seemingly polar opposites, but I can't. If you have any ideas, let me know.

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