United In Mission
Like many of you, I have been struggling, in the aftermath of the presidential election, to make sense of the deep divide in our country.
The day before the election, Chris and I had just arrived in Atlanta. While we were there, I had the opportunity to spend time with an old friend, who bought a house a couple years ago in one of the city’s up and coming neighborhoods. She explained to me that her next door neighbor on one side had voted for Trump, and her immediate neighbor on the other side had been a big Hillary supporter. The two neighbors had stopped speaking to each other about a month before the election, and my friend was left – quite literally – in the middle, still speaking to both neighbors but trying to straddle a huge chasm.
I think many of us were raised with the warning never to discuss religion or politics in polite company, for fear of exactly this sort of thing happening.
But in the days following the election, I realized how often I have isolated myself from those who disagree with me, and how such an attitude has contributed to the deep divide. Living with those who disagree with us is uncomfortable, and it takes a lot of work. I am guilty of not doing that work.
While in Atlanta, we had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Rob Wright. As we were explaining the work of Braid and our model of teamwork, he started telling us about his days serving as a young man as a Navy SEAL. When he was serving as a member of a helicopter rescue team, he said, he and his crew mates had a shared mission, which superseded all else. They might differ completely in their backgrounds, ethnicities, political or religious views, taste in music. But when they were on a mission together, they were totally united. And when they had completed their mission, they could talk about everything else over a beer.
I have been encouraged by Bishop Wright’s reminder that important conversations are much easier when they are grounded in relationship and shared mission.
That is what we seek to build at Braid above all else, and I have started to see it as a model for engaging the world in larger ways. I started to wonder what it would be like if my friend’s neighbors had a shared mission, something local. What if they were all on a Braid team together?
We purposely build mentor teams that are as diverse as we can make them. But we know that they will work, because they are united by the sacred space of common mission. And we believe that the foundation built on that trust and love will be strong enough to contain whatever a youth or a mentor needs to bring each week.
Through our work at Braid, I have cone to believe that the divisions in our world, however large, will only be bridged through relationship. Not protests or petitions or policies. Active, engaged relationships with the people with whom we share our world, with a task that transcends all the things that could possibly divide us.
So if you too are struggling to make sense of the divide in your country, or your community, or your neighborhood, or your family: start small.
Start local. Making the world better for children in your community is a great place to start. And reach out to your neighbors – the ones who agree with you, and the ones who don’t – to join with you in common mission.