Sunday, February 23, 2014

Loving my Enemies

I was in Paris during 9-11.  After a week I  was finally able to fly home.  By that time life had went on as usual as we Minnesotans were so far away from the terrorists attacks.  But I had a delayed reaction.  I was so distraught I couldn't go back to work for a week.  And when I did, I stared at Muslim men, wondering if they would be the next suicide attacker.  I watch planes fly over the skyscrapers in Minneapolis where I worked, hoping they would fly over them and not into them.   I did not blame Muslim women, I saw them as victims of an oppressive culture.  But the men, I feared them and hated them.  I had never known that feeling, knowing that someone hated me enough to want to kill me, just because I was an American.

After a few years of college and failed career attempts, I decided to delve into writing and use my free time to volunteer at places I had always wanted to but never had the time.  I started to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) for adults.  Some of my students were Muslim, including the men.

Over time I began to see that they are not all terrorists.  In fact, most Muslims, most anyone, just wants a better life for their families.  That is why they come here.  I don't believe they come here to take advantage, or to kill us.  But to have what we have always had, what we have always taken for granted.  Freedom.  Opportunity.  The basic necessities of life: food, shelter, education, health. 

I love my students, even the Muslim men.  What changed?  I read a lot of books, watched a lot of documentaries.  I reminded myself that we have home-grown terrorists too, like the Oklahoma bombing or the Olympic games bombing.

It is easy to group people into categories of good/bad.  But people are not so black and white.  I know I'm not.  This takes more time and energy, to get to know people, know their stories, and see them as they are human, like me.

We are not all so different.  We may practice different religions, speak different languages, or dress different, but I think most of us are pretty much the same.  And terrorists come from all walks of life, either here or someplace far away. 

I do believe God loves all of us, no matter who were are or where we come from.  I do believe Jesus is for all, not a white man's religion but for all as it says in the Bible, for we are not Greek or Jew, male or female, but we are all God's creation.  We don't get to choose where we are born, or what gender.  We are just here, trying to make it in this cosmic place at this time, at this place. 

In Les Miserables, the musical, the last word spoken is, "to love another person is to see the face of God."  I hope and pray I can always do this.  I know I won't, I am human, but God knows my heart, and He will help me do so.

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