The celebration of Black History Month each February gives all of us the opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the great benefits that our country’s broad racial diversity gives to us as a nation and as individuals. That diversity broadens our cultural opportunities and deepens our cultural understanding. The diversity of the American population is a source of great strength to us as a nation; we have many individual cultural and stylistic differences, but share a foundation of common values. Those shared values serve as the core of our relationships to others and as a community. As people, we share more in common than we differ.
I have been blessed in life with the opportunity to work and travel with people who’s race, culture and lifestyles differed from my own. While those differences don’t often make life easier or more efficient, they do make the work outcomes and life experiences better.
While living in Las Vegas, Martha, my wife, and I have been active members in two churches. In our first church, we were greeted in the fellowship following our first Sunday service by an Asian couple. After several Sundays, they invited us to their home for dinner. It was the beginning of a friendship that is now in it’s 21st year. We’ve cried, worried and laughed with each other. We’ve learned from each other. Our trip together to Italy was a delight. As I reflect, I realize they are the first Asian couple with whom I’ve had a close relationship. We may look different, but we share much more in common.
We have lived in Las Vegas twice. When we left, we had become active members in Desert Spring UMC. When we returned, we did so in part to return to Desert Spring. When I approached Pastor Dave about my interest in forming a discussion group that eventually became the Common Ground ministry, Dave suggested that I talk with Jimmie Franklin. Dave’s suggestion was exactly on target. Jimmie’s professional and personal backgrounds were highly influential in shaping and sharpening my understanding and thinking about the group discussion points.
Jimmie is my best friend among the Desert Spring congregants. On the surface we look different because of our racial difference. In elements that matter, we aren’t different. Our similarities outweigh our racial difference. We have shared values. We share a deep professional interest in human behavior, Jimmie as an historian, me as a psychologist. We are both searching for eternal spiritual truths, and rely on the Desert Spring community of congregants to identify those truths. We are both looking for common ground among the people we meet.
I know that the congregational diversity of Desert Spring makes us a more dynamic and robust church. I also know that my embrace of people different from me makes me a better person.