Thursday, April 1, 2010

We Are More Alike...

I've been trying to write a post describing the similarities between two experiences I had recently: seeing Dr. Maya Angelou speak and attending Passover Seder at our friends Stanley and Ilene's house. Hard as I tried, however, I couldn't find the right words to express my feelings. Frustrating, to say the least, for this writer. So, I've decided instead to simply tell about my experiences.

Being in Maya Angelou's presence for a second time, hearing her sing and speak about her life, was both humbling and uplifting. Dr. Angelou represents a strength, a courage, and an open-ness that I aspire to. She has experienced immeasurable suffering in her lifetime in the form of abuse, abandonment, and racism. Yet, she rises up, a graceful, strong woman who speaks only in positive phrases, not negative. She brings people together.

She told us, "You may encounter many defeats, but do not be defeated." No-one can turn a phrase like Dr. Angelou. And, no matter what she says, it sounds like music. She also said, "Human beings are more alike than we are unalike." This simple statement beautifully summarizes my feelings. All of us, African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans, Asians and Australians, Jews and non-Jews, want the same basic things in life.

This year's Passover Seder was not our first. Stanley and Ilene first invited us many years ago and we've been invited every year since. Some may wonder why my family celebrates Passover if we are not Jews. The answer is simple: because our dear friends invited us and we were honored to be included in such an important celebration. Secondary to this fact, we also want our children to know and appreciate people from a variety of different backgrounds with a variety of different beliefs. Even though Passover Seder lasts for several hours, and would keep our young children up hours past bedtime on a school night, sharing this experience with our friends was too important to miss.

I was honored to be in Maya Angelou's presence. I was honored to celebrate Passover. I am honored to be a small part of these events.

The next time you have a chance to meet someone different from you, take a chance and say hello. When a person of another faith invites you to a religious celebration, accept the invitation and go with an open heart. Go find the things that make you more alike than unalike.

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