This I Believe

Frances - Claremont, California
Entered on January 19, 2007

People distance themselves from each other by characterizing one another based on their religious affiliations, political parties, and countless other factions in society. I am guilty of this kind of discrimination, and I have no trouble believing many have done the same discourtesy to me. Why do we put so much emphasis on our personal beliefs? Generally married couples vote for the same part; people tend to surround themselves with friends who hold the same stances as them, while pushing away people they disagree with. We force these disagreements to make rifts between great minds without acknowledging others virtues. By stepping out of my human pettiness, and interacting without political influence I was able to see a light in someone who probably wouldn’t have considered talking to me when I had my dreadlocks.

Not long ago I spent a weekend as a page working for the Episcopal Convention. Altogether there were about 24 youth trotting through the long rows of tables, passing out ballots, collecting them, making sure the delegates had everything they needed. The work was easy enough, but the large amounts of down time that punctuated the work resulted in about 24 bored Episcopal youths.

By the second day we had all comfortably settled into our groups. Mine consisted of a lanky kid who towered over me at 6’4” named Kevin, and a pleasant girl named Sarah. When we weren’t scuttling around the convention hall, we were allowed to peruse the vender’s booths opposite the hall. On one of our many breaks Sarah, Kevin and I wandered the stalls looking at various ‘Jesus crispy’ displays. We came across one table where people were signing a petition to send aid to Sudan. Sarah and I quickly took up pens, and scrawled our names and email addresses on the sheet. Kevin hesitated then asked the man behind the table if the petition was only about sending aid to Sudan, because he didn’t want to sign anything that might also be against Bush.

In that one statement my view of Kevin altered. I could tell by the stiffening positions of Sarah and the man speaking to Kevin, that they too were withdrawing from the no-longer-comfortable situation. The tension in that moment was neither lost on me, nor Kevin. Already my mind raced back to the booth where Sarah and I had collected buttons saying equal rights for gays and straights; at the time it had not seemed weird that Kevin had hung back. My new friend was rapidly turning into someone with ideas to which I was morally opposed! Being at a religious event, our ideological differences seemed to stretch to our beliefs in God. How could he not believe in an accepting, open-minded God? The very idea seemed crass, but nothing made me any more right than Kevin. Then an image flashed in my head. I saw a circle as if looking down at the top of someone else’s head, but instead of there being one face, there were thousands, going the whole way around. I knew I was seeing the different faces of God.

All personal revelations are difficult to communicate, and this one in particular is challenging for words to convey. My revelation is about God; more of an entity than a figure, certainly not something that can be limited to confining pronouns like him or her. Rather than dwelling above in heaven, God lives on earth, inside all human beings. God is the creative light, the beauty, and the individuality in everyone. Our souls connect us to God and everyone else in the world. One of my favorite definitions: God is the reason why humans have an innate love of life, and why the feeling of love through an intimate relationship is so powerful. You feel the god within you most when you are at peace with everything.

People are created so differently, and react so differently to any given situation. Society tries to mold and shape our differences into one; presenting us with one ‘correct’ reaction, but society is not as strong as the personality born inside of us. God has hundreds of thousands of personalities; in fact every human being radiates one of God’s identities.

Two people that both believe in God have extremely different views about who God is. Neither one of them is wrong, because they found ‘their’ God inside of them. God is all-encompassing. God could not have only one personality because it would exclude the millions of others.

At convention I had gained the knowledge I needed to put acceptance into action. By the time I had left Saturday afternoon the warped, misguided Kevin morphed back into my friend once again. As I hugged him good-bye, I hoped that he would return next year. Kevin and I taught each other to not only cling to our passion, but to also acknowledge the integrity of one another’s ideals.