“One old Hasidic rabbi asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun, for that is the time for certain holy prayers. “Is it,” proposed one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi. “Is it when you can clearly see the lines on your own palm?” “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell if it is a fig or a pear tree?” “No,” answered the rabbi each time. “Then what is it?” the pupils demanded. “It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that they are your sister or brother. Until then it is still night.”
This story speaks to the heart of our connection with all people. Just because we do not know another person does not mean we are strangers. Just because there are differences and disagreements between us does not mean we cannot be friends. And just because our language, the color of our skin, our religion, or our sexual orientation differs, does not mean we are unrelated
Resisting the impulse to make enemies out of people who look, think, or believe differently from us is often difficult; for diversity can feel like a threat to the comfort and security we seek – usually unconsciously – in homogeneous groups. But we are citizens of the world before we are citizens of any country; we belong to God – by whatever name – before we belong to any particular faith family.
Huston Smith, an authority on comparative religions, offers good advice in this matter when he says: “Beware of the differences that blind us to the unity that binds us.” The celebration of Independence Day is an opportunity to realize that our self-reliance, both as individuals and as a nation, can keep us from recognizing that we are all sisters and brothers. Despite our differences we are essentially interdependent.
The notion of interdependence brings to mind an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” There is much to be said for the ability to stand on one’s own, but we need each other if we are to go far in becoming our best personally, interpersonally, and internationally. The awareness that we are interdependent challenges us to relate to each other in ways that build bridges, not walls.
Every morning the sunrise brings an end to night, but darkness will remain upon the earth so long as we allow our ethnic, religious, philosophical, and political differences to overshadow the common spiritual bond that unites us.