Merry Christmas – 2013

Happy New Year! Colorful Bubbly for You!
ecstaticist / / CC BY-NC-SA

We all have our customs.

We all have our traditions.

We all have our beliefs.

And we each believe that what we believe is the right thing to believe. Right? If we didn’t, why would we believe it? It’s only natural.

Our world has, in some ways, become incredibly small thanks to things like the internet, mass media, and high-speed travel. We can meet and know people from vastly divergent cultures and traditions. We can visit places that may as well be on another planet for all they have in common with our everyday lives. We are part of what is truly a global community, and we can choose to participate in that community with people from across the street, across the continent, or across the ocean.

Or not.

In some ways, our world is bigger than it has ever been. It’s impossible to live the kind of insular life that was commonplace even a few decades ago. We are exposed to people who come from vastly different cultures and traditions than we are accustomed to, and who come from places that may as well be on another planet for all they have in common with our everyday lives. And when encountering those who have divergent customs, traditions, and beliefs, many choose to draw boundaries and divisions between themselves and those who are different.

They don’t believe what I believe, so they must be wrong. Right? It’s only natural.

But to think that way is to miss an opportunity. To avoid or exclude others because they are different than I am, to belittle them to make myself feel bigger, actually has the opposite effect. If I shut others out, it makes me small. When I open myself up to people and ideas unfamiliar to me, I grow.

That doesn’t mean giving up or compromising my own customs, traditions, and beliefs. Most of life is not that black or white. Instead, it’s about making connections. It’s about believing our differences are smaller than our similarities. It’s about seeing the light and hope in others that I want them to see in me.

So today and in the year to come, try to look beyond the familiar. Open your eyes to the world, and open your heart to people from other cultures and other traditions.  Learn to love a little bit more. It is the true Christmas spirit.

I hope you and your family have a Christmas full of joy and wonder. And I hope you share that wonder with those who may as well be from another planet for all they have in common with you.

Be blessed,
Elizabeth McCleary

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