Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A dream

On the way to the train station on Christmas morning, the car service driver asked me if Christmas is always on a Sunday. I explained that no, it's always on Dec. 25 so it changes, unlike Easter or Thanksgiving or Memorial Day, which are always on specific days of the week. This evolved into a conversation about holidays and religion... He asked me how people celebrate Christmas, and I explained it in my very secular way (family, food, and gifts, no mention of Jesus) and he told me about fasting during Ramadan, about how it makes him feel pure (he remarked that he can't even kiss his wife - at least, not with any intentions of it going any further.) He said it also reminds him of how the truly hungry feel, and of course theirs is a hunger without intent. It inspires him to give to the less fortunate. He told me the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, and how he prepared to sacrifice his son as God asked, but at the last minute was given a lamb to take Isaac's place. We then talked sheep - my mother raises sheep, and the driver had lived on a sheep farm in Jordan as a little boy.

It was a good conversation, and a nice way to start Christmas Day. It's the world I want to live in, a world where different people are curious about and respectful of each others' faiths and lifestyles and peacefully co-exist.

In my Brooklyn bubble, I do live in that world, to some extent. One Martin Luther King Day years ago, the former Unitarian minister reflected on MLK's "I have a dream" speech with his own similar hope, for a world in which people of all religions and cultures live side-by-side, learning and sharing and not judging. And then he paused and said that here in Brooklyn, we have gotten pretty damn close. It's one of the most diverse boroughs (or cities, taken separately) in both culture and religion. Sometimes I look around the subway car and think that my more sheltered relatives (some of whom have never left their upstate counties) would be amazed at the different types of people sitting there in one small space. If you tried to replicate it on tv, you'd likely be accused of being too overtly "politically correct," of creating something fake for dramatic impact, like a carefully balanced Bennetton ad.


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