Carter Op-ed

By Michael Carter,

Diversity Officer, Mission Hospital

Around this time of year, I get caught up with one question.  How can different ways of seeing and believing bring us together – whether it’s love of the earth, love of ourselves, love of each other, or love of God? This holiday season we are faced with pressures of financial hardship and global turmoil. As our nation’s first African-American president prepares to take office, are we able or willing to open our minds?

I am reminded of this every day, as I encounter the many religious beliefs of the patients and their families who come to Mission Hospital for care.  Here are a few of the valuable lessons that I have learned.

  • There’s a kernel of truth in all religions.  Jesus said, “I have sheep that are not of this fold.” (John 10:16)   I like to think that we’re all searching for the same place, just taking different routes.

Our beliefs can divide us or unite us. We can interpret and practice our faith in a way that focuses on our differences. Or, we can do it in a way that finds common ground. There is so much of it. My hope for the new year is also a challenge – to move from believing that we have all of the answers to opening our minds to uncertainty. First Nation’s Peoples (Native Americans), to my knowledge, never argued about the existence of God.  They argued over land and rights, but not over the nature of the Great Spirit.  Some nations, such as the Sioux, refer to God as the great mystery.  They were able to live with this question, not requiring an answer.

There are as many ways to worship as there are people. This was America at its founding, and it is America today. We are a nation of people with various beliefs and customs who bring with us our beliefs and customs. It is what has made American culture so rich and varied. It is a cause for celebration not a cause for fear.

  • We are connected by our hopes, dreams and aspirations.  Look at the similarities in what we want- family, friends, a spiritual inner life, a bright future, learning lessons from the past, peace on Earth.  Add to that goodwill towards each other.

There is majesty in being human, and something sacred in just getting up every day.  At times, life can be difficult, and it can be particularly difficult right now. The economic troubles facing our nation are impacting some of us more than others. This is a time to reach out and help those in need with our time, talent and money. Helping those is need knows no religious boundary.

Can you put God in a box?  Can the finite fathom the infinite? Faith exists in the presence of doubt. The times ahead will test our faith in one another and perhaps even our god. But this is not a time to be taking sides, for that is the stuff of wars and hatred. We all know what a tragic road that can be. Now is the time for reconciliation and love. My hope is that our community will find an abundance of both during the holiday season.

We’ve all done things that we’ve been ashamed of and things that we’ve been proud of.  That is part of being human.  We strive for the good simply because it is good, not because of the consequences. Living in harmony with people and the spectacular natural world around us is one way we can live out our faith. Exploring our spirituality and developing a sense of inner peace is a gift we can give ourselves every day, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

We live in complex and uncertain times. The world is not simple. How much easier life would be if everything were black and white. But it is not. It is full of varying shades of grey.  We use our beliefs and our faith to navigate these uncertain waters. They can also be the ties that binds us to one another, for our needs and wants are much the same.

I’ve learned much from our patients and their families. They constantly remind me of what is important in life. They have allowed me to witness the power of forgiveness and love. For this holiday season here’s wishing you what Christians call, “the peace that passes all understanding.”  May your faith journey, whatever it may be, bring you closer to finding that most precious of gifts.

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