Last year at this time, in my bulletin article, I cited the exasperated question asked by an acquaintance, “Can anyone cite something good that happened in 2016?” No few people are asking the same thing about this past year. On the world stage, 2017 has been a year that has seen 2016’s problems deepen and new ones arise.
We enter the season of “peace on earth and good will toward humankind” as it is often described by our Christian friends with both seeming distant and even laughable concepts to expect. This year, the themes of Chanukah seem more appropriate than usual: a holiday of light amid the darkness, hope amid despair, courage at a time of fear, and standing up for one’s beliefs at a time of persecution. 60,000 nationalists marched in Poland recently, no few proclaiming anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments and calling for pure blood.
Closer to home, too many people spend their days in harmonious echo-chambers shunning dissonance, only willing to hear agreeable opinions, while seeing challenging ones as evil instead of simply different. Tolerance and respect for difference often only extends to those within our echo-chambers. We’re willing to tolerate hearing different notes as long as they maintain our desired harmony. And too often, staying with the musical analogy, rather than trying to help a dissonant note resolve, we simply exile the musician playing it.
For the good of our communities and for the good of our nation, we need to expand our tolerance and seek to understand those who do not agree with us. Only then can we have the necessary conversations about how address many of our community, state, or national challenges, much less to achieve functional and effective solutions.
May our doors be wide enough to admit those who do not think as we think.
May our ears be open enough to listen to words that we may not wish to hear.
May our eyes see not only difference, but commonality.
May our hearts allow us to be compassionate and tolerant.
May our minds put our wisdom to the work of understanding.
May we make our world a better place.