Last week, our parish kicked off a program called “Sacred Ground.” The program comes out of the Episcopal Church and is meant to be a program to help Caucasians begin (or continue) to wrestle with the issue of racism. As part of the introductory materials, Bishop Michael Curry retells Moses’ call narrative. If you remember, God tells Moses to take off his shoes beside the burning bush because he is standing on holy ground. Bishop Curry submits that the ground is holy not because of the fire but because it is the place where God tells God’s story. Curry further suggests that anytime someone shares their story, we are standing on sacred ground with them.
As our group began to tell our stories, I began to realize perhaps this is why we are struggling as a country and community these days. So often we assume we know people’s stories based on their political stances, their social media posts, or even our chitchat with them on a daily basis. But every person has a story – a journey of joys and sorrows, a path of successes and failures, and a walk of pride and shame. And until we make space to hear that story, we will judge, assume, and desecrate the holiness of others.
This week I came across a story of a project in Denmark called the Human Library. People go to public libraries and instead of borrowing books they “borrow” people. Each person is given a “title,” such as “Unemployed,” “Refugee,” or “Bipolar.” When you borrow the person, you sit with them for thirty minutes and hear their story. The idea is to break down prejudice through the power of story.
This week I invite you to reach out to someone you do not know much about – someone you only know superficially, someone different from you, or someone you already know will rub you the wrong way and ask if you can hear their story. In this time of social distancing, maybe you start with projects like Humans of New York or StoryCorps. But maybe you use a phone, FaceTime, or outdoor coffee as your method to connect with someone local. Either way, this week I invite you to take off your shoes and stand on some holy ground with one another and your God. Perhaps once we all have our shoes off, we will find ourselves walking much more tenderly with one another.