Editor’s Note: As part of our commitment to fostering civil conversations in Viewpoints, we invite religious leaders to submit edited versions of their homilies that transcend religion, with messages that may appeal to people of all traditions. religious.
The start of a new year is a time to think about what you want to accomplish in the months to come. As we move into 2022, we have a great opportunity to bridge the growing divide in our country. The problem is not the differences we have with each other. We are all different – with different political beliefs, a wide variety of backgrounds, various religious traditions, an endless shade of skin tones, etc. But differences don’t divide – our fears and lack of understanding do. The real problem is that we end up focusing on these differences and tend to forget the importance of what we have in common. We are all human.
In Oklahoma, we have a strong sense of what really matters because we have had more than our share of tragic circumstances. Over the past 25 years, Oklahoma has experienced tornadoes, floods, ice storms, wildfires, earthquakes and the bombing of 1995.
In the wake of those times, we’ve been there for each other. We clean, provide food, donate blood, donate clothes and donate money. We do all of this without inquiring about the recipient’s voting record. We do not check if their religious beliefs and origins match ours. We know that these differences don’t matter in times of struggle and loss.
Here’s the important truth to remember as we start the New Year: If we can take care of each other during tough times, we can take care of each other during all other times as well. Differences in appearances, origins or beliefs do not affect our ability to be compassionate and kind. We choose whether or not we are going to take care of people. At the start of a new year, choose to be kinder to those you meet.
We can do our part to bring about change; it starts with us. We can recognize first and foremost that each person is a child of God, worthy of our respect. While we have differences and may even disagree on issues, we don’t have to show contempt or ridicule. We do not have to participate in demeaning or disrespectful discussions. We can listen to people in the coming year who have different points of view than us. One of the best things we can do is seek out volunteer opportunities that focus on helping those in need. It reminds us of our common humanity.
2022 is a chance to treat each other with more kindness and respect. It’s up to each of us; it is a responsibility for us to live and a blessing if we live it.
Wendy Lambert is the senior pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church.