If everyone received strangers as family, the world would be a much kinder place.
Having recently returned from a trip halfway around the world, I want to reflect for a moment on an oft-used phrase that took on new meaning for me on this trip: Family in Faith.
We traveled not only 17 hours on a plane, but then nine hours or more in vans or buses to reach some of the most remote villages anywhere: the Jaffna peninsula in the northwest corner of Sri Lanka, the Mangrove forests in Bangladesh, and the last inhabitable residence overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
Everywhere we went, we met family.
We worshiped in their sanctuaries, toured their schools, stood in their farm fields, sat in their pews, sang their hymns, heard their stories, and over and over again introduced ourselves to strangers with whom we were received as family.
It is a powerful thing to be welcomed as the stranger, treated as family at table, and received as beloved in a new land. The food was both exotic to our palate and offered over and again with kindness, compassion, and love. The music and dance were mysterious, unfamiliar to our eye and ear. And yet when you realize the children dancing before you spent hours rehearsing to make your welcome all the more memorable, you delight in every second of it. In Uduville we were feted with a full marching band; in Dhaka youth danced in unison and waved the flag of independence with civic pride; in Wanni, children at the pre-school leaped and lurched in uncoordinated joy as the music filled their heart and soul.
I got up early one morning in Delhi and walked a few blocks to a Sikh temple. I walked into a small room and was greeted by a kind soul. He spent the next hour walking me through the large campus on which the temple was located. He bragged the whole time about the beauty of their faith. He walked me into the temple where prayers were being offered, scripture was being ridden, and men and women sat or knelt together in reverence. He repeated over and over again the all are equal in their eyes and no one is cast out. He spoke of how liberal they were. He took me to the kitchen where thousands are fed every day at no cost. It felt so familiar to me – so beautiful. I was a stranger to their land and their religion, and yet was welcomed as an honored guest and made to feel, well, at home.
Beloved, we are a family. Regardless of the God whom we worship, if love is our root then we recognize the stranger as one of ours. We treat others and are treated as if we belong to each other.
It was my joy to be the recipient of that love as I came as welcome guest into the land of these beautiful souls.
It will be my joy to welcome and receive the stranger as sibling into my own home and heart.
As the world turns, our future depends on our willingness and ability to channel the sacred in all of us.
No walls can diminish this drive within all of us. No cages can extinguish our desire both the welcome and be welcomed.
As you travel these pathways, as you enter as stranger or receive as guest – see in all what the Creator fashioned with hands of love and called good. And may all doors open no matter where you travel on this, your journey Into the Mystic.