I suppose it was inevitable. This particular piece of paper was bound to happen. I opened a small hanging travel toiletry kit to read the care and use instructions. On the outside cover was the brand name of the kit and the words “Hanging Toiletry Kit.” But inside? Nine small pages in nine different languages—none of them English! Five of the languages used Arabic lettering. Four used lettering I could not read at all. Greek? Chinese? Japanese? I’m not sure.
Yes, the piece was purchased at a luggage store in a shopping mall in suburban Pittsburgh. Yes, the service personnel in the store all spoke clear English. And, yes, they accepted my credit card in English. But nine languages on “use and care” were unreadable for me!
Is this not a parable of the time in which we are living? We have become a world community. Some conservative or reactionary types may try to deny it. Some will try to resist the transition, even rail against it. However, we clearly have a global economy where what happens on the other side of the Earth affects what happens here. Pollution and environmental challenges travel the globe. We also have more and more religions represented in our towns, villages, and neighborhoods.
I grew up in an almost totally Caucasian community. (There was one person of color in my very large high school.) Everyone in my neighborhood was at least nominally Protestant or Roman Catholic. Only a scattering of Jewish households. One neighbor was from Greece.
Not so today! A variety of racial, ethnic, cultural and religious expressions is clearly present. This is the world of my grandchildren and even my adult children.
We must learn to live and grow with this new reality. I need to understand and appreciate the depth of religious vitality in the most positive practices of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and others. I must learn from their language of faith. And I must go deeper into my own practices as a follower of Jesus.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014