This morning in church, I felt a particular need to be connected with my fellow parishioners after all the violence in Virginia yesterday. I felt a desire to be focused on our mutual need for divine guidance in these days of unrest, division and trouble.
One man was there, a homeless man with tattoos on his face, and I realized I hadn't seen him in a long time. He came up after church and said to me, "I have been in jail for four years for stealing CDs and my dad came every day to visit me." His eyes were clear and he looked deeply happy to report this news. I remembered his name was Mark.
Mark sat in coffee hour in his dirty clothes and in severe need of a bath, and I watched as one parishioner after another was kind to him. This man, who might scare the average person on the street, was listened to by any number of people and treated as just one more person at coffee hour. I felt proud of us as a church, as a community, for working hard to see past this man's external appearance and treat him as a fellow human being worthy of respect.
This helped me to see that the lesson for me today was simple: Tolerance builds a bridge to understanding.
Our country needs to remember that tolerance of others is key to freedom for all.
May God guide us to open our hearts to those who are different from ourselves and see our shared humanity. Please, Father, help us all in this time of trouble.