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Friday, December 20, 2019

Graced by Equality

Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward.

Job 5:7 (NIV)


I have mentioned in past blogs two nagging conundrums.  One is that introduced by my son’s Imam in one of his addresses at mosque services.  Im
am Wilmore Sadiki had recently read a book called Crossing the Road. In summary he reported the book detailed the lives and behaviors of certain key figures in several widely diverse religions.  The thing all these leaders had in common was their proactive determination and willingness to “cross the road” (ideological, experiential, cultural divides) to meet others.  What was the yeast that made such behavior remarkable and powerful?

Marvin Sweat a retired United Methodist minister was well into his 90’s when he and I would run errands on Saturdays.  We often would breakfast in popular restaurants, visit his tailor, stop by his dry cleaner, or shop for groceries at Publix.  Our time together was always filled with my wonderment how he could strike up a conversation with total strangers whom after a few minutes of ice-breaking remarks would be willing to voice for my friend's consideration some major perplexing and/or painful personal challenges. 

This evening Connie and I were having dinner at Kristina's Cafe.  A gracious young waitress named Tia today cracked the riddle that has haunted me for years.

After pulling up a chair to talk with us a minute, Tia contributed the key observation that a sense of equality is spawn from informal, individually focused conversation. At its best, this conversation holds as pure happenstance and irrelevant any lurking hierarchical power while eliciting a compelling sense of mutual equality in which cagey and defensive small-talk rings sour and inappropriate.  Equality becomes well-neigh reflexively the governing tone whose powerful currents permit honesty within a shared vulnerability.

So, at last I now understand the operative factor for Marvin.  It was an impelling sense of shared equality that subliminally communicated “You can trust me…I am a fellow mortal and will not be scandalously shocked nor will I judgmentally shun you aside for voicing your current perplexities.

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