"I Wish We Could Each Spend a Day…" (Essay)

A prayer for peace seems like asking for the absurd this year, so maybe start with a hope to build a simple foundation of empathy.

We put up our Christmas tree together tonight, the three of us. In this season of Advent and high holy days for many of the world's faiths, it feels though this year the darkness draws a little closer and a little tighter. The winter's long nights are upon us, and while the days have been bright and mild here in Virginia, it still feels like the solstice and Christmas can't get here fast enough.

I see people in a virtual world fighting, endlessly lobbing harsh words at each other from the safety and sanctity of their own homes and the comfort zone of their own beliefs, while many others out in the world are in great danger. It is a great war of anger, dug into trenches of left and right and reinforced by walls of labels, like spittable epithets that we use to dehumanize each other.

At times like these, I remember the words of Mr. Rogers, who is almost more of a comfort to me as an adult than when I was a child. I paraphrase what he said simply; in times of danger look for the helpers. You'll find them rushing towards danger, being brave even though they're scared too. I will always believe that there are far more helpers than bad guys. I'd like to think that the people hurling hurtful words at each other would drop what they're doing and rush to aid any and all in an emergency.

So this morning I offered a humble prayer for empathy - simply wishes, particularly for those of my "ilk".

- that we could spend a day riding shotgun with the police who patrol the dangerous and impoverished streets of our cities

- that we could spend a day driving, working or doing most anything in public while black or brown

- that we could spend a day in the uniform of our country on the ground in the middle East, and another in Afghanistan

- that we could spend a day being one of the vast majority of peace-loving Americans of the Muslim faith

- that we could spend a day as the struggling single parent trying to pick up the pieces and provide for her/his children

- that we could spend a day as the worker whose good job has long been superseded by technology or cheaper labor overseas

- that we could spend a day as the person who is also one of those previous two and lost the security of a home, struggling to get by on shelters and charity

- that we could spend a day as that child growing into the awareness that he or she can't be kept safe by mom and/or dad

- that we could spend a day listening to each other's stories and hearing the human needs and fears within them, instead of the armor of platitudes and philosophies while hurling the hand grenades of disdain and downright hatred at those whose own differ

- that we might remember that at the end of the day, we have far more in common in our human hopes and frailties than those things that differentiate us.

Amen. Blessed be.

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