I sat in church today, on this tenth anniversary of "9/11," listening to profound words of love and peace through prayer and song. Our church's music director sang a gorgeous haunting piece entitled "Salaam Aleikum," Arabic for "Peace Be With You." Our pastor invited us to take a moment of silence to consider what "9/11" means to each one of us personally.
I didn't really know, frankly, what it meant to me. Like much of the rest of our country, I watched it happen. I remember well the sunny Tuesday morning on which I folded laundry in my living room, cooing at my little baby, watching a morning news program. I remember the show cutting away from its scheduled programming to go live to the World Trade Center just after the first tower had been hit, when no one yet knew exactly what was happening. I remember watching in horror - live - when the second tower was hit. Later that morning at work, huddled with a group of cowokers around a tiny TV set, I watched the tower collapse.
Like much of the rest of the country, I was horrified, sad, angry, and scared. But I did not lose any loved ones. The events of that day happened far away from me, literally and figuratively. I was moved by the tragedy, but I also moved on, not having been personally affected as so many were.
So when my pastor implored us to be silent and to ponder this anniversary's meaning to us, I quietly said a prayer for God to grant world peace and healing, much like I would do any Sunday.
This afternoon, I visited an online community for women with ADD/ADHD of which I recently became a member. A few days ago, I met a woman, also new to the community, and we exchanged a couple of messages - one in which I shared with her a link to this blog. Today, I received a message from her in which she expressed to me how much it helped her to read my posts. She told me she cried. Her words were heartfelt, and I was touched deeply by her thanks, although I felt undeserving of her gratitude. I didn't do anything. All I did was invite her to read my story. Some might call that self-centered of me; but she didn't seem to feel that way, and for that, I am so grateful.
I didn't do anything special. All I did was share some information in which another human being a thousand miles away, someone I've never met before, found some commonality - some communion. I am humbled by this beyond words. Being verbally hyperactive, I can count on one hand the number of times in my life when I have been rendered speechless, and this was one of them.
I've been thinking about my exchange with this woman, and it has me thinking about how truly profound it is to discover, in this immense world, commonality - even in the most mundane of ways, especially when we feel alone and different and misunderstood.
I think back to my days of studying cultural anthropology in college and graduate school. I remember that one of the things that interested and fascinated me most in my studies of people and cultures around the world and through history was that - although we like to focus on the differences among people - in fact as individual human beings, we are all more alike than we are different. The CEO of a Wall Street corporation feels pain, love, loneliness, jealousy, frustration, boredom, and amusement, just as a hunter living in the Kalahari Desert.
From the catastrophic social and political tragedies of our world, all the way down to our partisan, family, and office sqabbles, our conflicts spawn from our inability and unwillingness to accept and live according to this essential truth. For whatever reason, it's much easier and more gratifying for us to seek and find the differences among us than it is our commonality. In saying this, I'm not judging or holier-than-thou. I'm every bit as guilty of it as the next guy.
Finding commonality calls us to a much higher standard of behavior. It calls us to set aside our egos and "love our neighbor as ourselves." It is what is absolutely required of us if we are to ever live in a world with no more "9/11s," Holocausts, wars, discrimination, and exploitation. Finding communion with each other in our differences is what is required for world peace, that thing I rotely prayed for. But it is not God's to impose peace upon the world. It is ours to create. And I suppose, this is what 9/11 means to me.
So I want to amend my prayer from this morning.
Heavenly Creator, please open my eyes, ears, mind, and heart to see in each of Your children with whom I cross paths how we are the same, so I may have compassion, empathy, and understanding in our differences. Help me to remember that we are all created in One image, no matter what name we call You by, or even if we don't call You at all. Help me remember that each person I encounter - regardless of our origins, beliefs, station, and life circumstances - is more like me than he or she is different from me, so that I might come even a little closer to achieving Your commandment that I love my neighbor as myself. Help me do my tiny part to usher in the peace that is Your will for the world. Amen.