D.J. is a very Muslim man whose taxi business is housed in a very Jewish auto-repair shop. It is here that this very Christian woman takes her very old car for repairs that are getting more and more frequent. So I have gotten to watch and love how these men interact in a way that gives me hope for peace among the people of the world.
One day D.J. was munching on a snack while I was waiting for my bill to be processed, and he kindly offered me a couple of crackers. I thanked him but said, "No," to his surprise. "Madam, they are kosher, don't worry" - a comment that made me smile.
"D.J., you forget that I'm Christian and am not concerned about kosher. Anyway, why does a Muslim care about kosher?"
"Oh, Madam, you should, too." he said solemnly. "It will make you get along with these people better if you eat their food." At which point very Jewish Jeff whomped him over the head with the papers for my car. We all laughed.
It was one of those holy, everyday moments that point to a bigger truth.
Despite the ethnic violence portrayed in the media, the reality is that there are people from all kinds of backgrounds connecting every day in ways that are moving civilization forward. Yes, there are painful contradictions of this fact, but in thinking about the world, I find myself asking: Which evidence am I to believe? Is man nothing more than a self-interested animal who defends only the confines of his own family's lair? Or is man endowed with the perspective of his Maker, and able to look at life broadly, able to think beyond his own life?
Another true story is from a nursery-school teacher. It was a special day in her class when they were having potato chips for morning treats. Quin, who unfortunately had the reputation as the class bully, downed his chips quickly, only to start preying on his neighbors. Timid Emil, who had suffered much from Quin's aggression, looked to be his easiest victim, but the teacher caught him in mid-reach. "If you want something from Emil, you must ask him nicely for it," she warned.
Obediently, Quin asked, and eagerly, Emil gave him not one but two precious potato chips, after which he put his arms around his old enemy and hugged him tenderly.
Respect and sharing are practiced values in the car-repair shop and nursery school. There is no secure peace without mutual respect; and there is no relevant peace without finding ways to share. Surely these have something to do with peacemaking in places such as the Middle East. What basis of hope is there that respect and sharing can come forward? The basis of hope is God's knowledge of His creation.
As much as humans are fooled into thinking that they are isolated, solitary beings, fighting for their lives and provision, we have a divine origin, placing us securely in God's family with God's provision. This is the fundamental truth of the universe. Rather than agree that we live in a universe of competitive needs and limited resources, it is essential that we admit that the provision of one man's needs is in harmony with another's.
This is the foundation for hope. And how important it is that we commit to that hope.
So often when we hear of progress in peacemaking, it's tempting to wonder if it's another false hope. Recalcitrant thought and behavior patterns are difficult to penetrate.
But what validates the hope for me is the premise on which it is based - the naturalness of the members of God's family connecting and communicating in ways that bless one another.
My community is a smorgasbord of races, religions, and cultural backgrounds, and I have never felt danger in my neighborhood or downtown, even after dark. At the Jewish car- repair shop this Christian woman feels nothing but support and comfort, with the confidence that a good service is being provided at an honest price.
This is not false reality; peace is a norm in communities all over the world. and the principle behind it is God, the same God who is governing all the people of the Middle East.
Let brotherly love continue.