by Hannah Hochkeppel, K4P Seattle Program Director
An Evangelical Christian Pastor, a Unitarian Minister, a Buddhist Monk, and a Jewish Business Woman walk in to a room … and it is not the beginning of a bad or confusing joke!
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry’s Interfaith Harmony Week banquet. The theme of this year’s banquet was, “What in the world are we here for?” This question, one I think many of us often ask ourselves in jest, was addressed by each of the 4 panelists. Each panelist spoke from his or her own personal experience and personal faith tradition. Despite the extremely different approaches to faith, spirituality, and the human experience, each panelist spoke of the interconnectedness of humanity and of a desire to work always for the greater good.
Rev. Jon Luopa, a Unitarian Minister, spoke of the transitive versus intransitive use of the word hope. For so many, hope is confined to a specific item or idea – hoping for good weather on vacation, or hoping for a favorite present on our birthday. Luopa challenged the audience to think more broadly about how we define hope. What if hope was instead the way that we chose to approach our life each day? What if hope brought about a self-awareness of the responsibility we have to the greater good?
Taijo, a Buddhist Monk, began his sharing with the story of a lotus flower, growing in a lotus pond to be big and beautiful, with an unrivaled delicious scent. He painted the picture for all of us of this beautiful flower. Then he began to describe the pond that the flower grows in. Stagnant water, compost and waste, dirt and mud, the list goes on but it is obvious that this pond is dirty and smells decidedly less delicious than the flower. This description jarred us from our image of this beautiful flower, to an image drastically different. Taijo left us with this thought: if a flower as beautiful as the Lotus could grow from the disgusting lotus pond, what can come from the difficult, and decidedly less hopeful situations that we find ourselves in from day to day, week to week?
As I was reflecting on the question, “Why on earth are we here,” I settled on the word we. We are here, we exist in the world. I do not exist alone, nor do others exist alone, but we all exist together. Many times this existing together as a dynamic we means that we find ourselves in messy lotus ponds fraught with political arguments, violent actions, and prejudice based on any number of judgements that one passes on the other. Despite this mess, how does hope influence what grows?
In Kids4Peace, the interfaith work that we do is often messy. It is hard, and emotionally draining. Yet, it is also beautiful and life-giving. The intentionality that we have as we cultivate growth amidst the messiness, intentionally seeing and upholding the gifts we see in others, gives me hope. I am hopeful for the greater good of the we when I see others willing to come together amidst the mess, to find the roots for what one day, I hope, will be a big and beautiful flower.