By Rev. Gwen N. Bernstine, Pastor, Lycoming Presbyterian Church, Newberry
These walks, several times a day, benefit our dog Truffles, and he gets “bent out of shape” if neighbors don’t speak to him or come over and pet him. He also gets dejected if we have chosen a bad time to go for a walk, when no neighbors are outside. The other day a dejected Truffles was headed home when he saw a young man, a perfect stranger, walking down the street. Truff pranced right up, tail wagging, and made a new friend.
News stories show that many of us are much better at making new enemies than making new friends. We differ on many issues, including abortion, gun control, the death penalty, health care, and human sexuality. Stories show us models of behavior that exclude people from being valued co-workers or neighbors. Sometimes these stories seem to exclude us from living on the same planet.
I am disheartened when people expect us to believe the same things. We do not grow when we are not challenged by new and different ideas that cause us to reassess our beliefs. When we value diverse opinions, I think this will help us better value each other and care for each other.
One of the basic tenants of all people of faith is that we are to “love one another” (John 13:34 ESV). That is not an optional request, but we are expected to look at people as worthy, not expendable. We must care for each other. Maya Angelou, using a quote attributed to Carl W. Buehner, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We can never go wrong with making others feel valued, worthy, and special. Saint Paul, in his letter to the congregations in Galatia urges us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
When we care for each other, we want the best for them. That is why I start my walk lifting my neighbors up in prayer. The blessing of peace/shalom is central to many faith traditions. Many Christian congregations share or pass the peace during worship. The Muslim faith tradition, Islam, comes from the words al-silm and istaslama, which translated mean “peace.” And both of our Jewish congregations in Lycoming County have the word Sholom in their title. This blessing is an active power for healing, building, and sustaining relationships.
The blessing of Shalom, Peace be With You, tells people we love them, that we want to help bear their burdens, that we want the best for them, and that they are in our prayers. Go out in our community in Peace!