When is the dawn?

There’s a  rabbinical story I heard a few years ago and couldn’t find again for a long time–but I recently read it in the book my spiritual advisor and I have been going through. It goes like this:

An old Rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.

“Could it be,” asked one of the students, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it’s sheep or a dog?”

“No,” answered the Rabbi.

Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s a fig tree or a peace tree?”

“No,” answered the Rabbi.

“Then when is it?” the pupils demanded.

“It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.”

It’s a simple story–but so difficult to live. It’s kind of like Lucy (in the Peanuts comics) when she says, “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.”

I can acknowledge in the abstract that others are my brothers or sisters. But what happens when that person has a different understanding of the scriptures than I do? or differs politically? or is gay? or is a terrorist? or is an alcoholic…a prostitute…a meth addict…a registered sex offender…is homeless…?

Can I still see them as brother or sister? Do I want to see them as brother or sister? Because if I do, then that changes how I interact with them…changes my responsibility toward them…and sometimes it’s easier to just keep things the way they are…the way they’ve always seemed to be.

But I’m tired of living in the night.

I’m tired of divisions..hatred…inequality…

There has to be something better–not just for me, but for all of us!

The only way we’re going to get there is if we are willing to take a chance–to truly look at each other, listen to each other, work with each other. I can hear someone now saying that it’s folly to take that chance if those on “the other side” aren’t willing to do the same. Maybe…

But somebody has to be willing to look for that first sign of dawning…to help others find it as well.

It’s not going to be easy…and it may take longer than we hope. But if we want the dawn to come, then it has to begin somewhere–and, as Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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