By Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU
I remember growing up where neighborhoods were places where people knew each other. The older children of the neighborhood watched out for you when you crossed the street. Baseball and sometimes football were played in the back yard with makeshift bases and goals. “Neighbor” had a special ring to it. There was a connection. We took homemade cookies to the new “neighbors who moved in across the street.”
That seemed ordinary. You just did it because you were neighbors.
We knew each other’s names and because Mr. Small was the father of my brother’s best friend, we knew him to be a policeman who walked the streets in someone else’s neighborhood. Police were then people you could look up to, go to for help, feel protected if they were where you were. Police were ordinary people, like your neighbor.
Teachers were “tops.” And if you didn’t feel that way about your math teacher, you for sure didn’t mention it at home.
“Ordinary” named someone like yourself. Easy to be around. Nothing special maybe, and sometimes maybe yes.
It was ordinary to expect that those who had special titles like mayors or governors or congresspersons or, and yes, Presidents, were honest, sincere, someone special, because after all they were elected from the many, right?
It seemed pretty ordinary to have people working together. And even though neighborhoods were separate, we never suspected that some were designated to be poor or of another “color.”
It was pretty ordinary that dads worked to put food on the table and moms, most of them, took care of the children. In any case, no one ever thought of intentionally separating children from their parents.
Guns were used for hunting. Mr. Small used one to protect us. Schools were safe places, Fun places. Gathering spaces.
But we are not living now in ordinary times. What could be expected or trusted or believed can no longer be counted. We need to rethink the way we relate to one another, question “democracy,” not as a static given, but as a dynamic process of caring for the least protected among us, giving credibility to “justice for all.” Perhaps we need to put a different face or meaning on what it means to dialogue as a peace-building technique.
Perhaps we need to ignite extraordinary kindness as a model for government, protecting our earth, relating to one another. And certainly we need to ask again the question “who is my neighbor?” and make the “other” who is different, whose language I do not understand, whose religious beliefs are not mine, and whose style of life or personal preferences are not of my liking, and call them “neighbor.”
We are in a time that calls for extraordinary love, extraordinary hope, and extraordinary peace.
That perhaps will be the only way we can truly care for our earth, care for the generations to come, care for the most vulnerable among us, care for one another, and care for ourselves.
Let us live in extraordinary times!