Maybe loving one another isn’t so complex after all.
I’m an online shopper. Not always, but mostly. Which means that I possibly visit my post officer more often than most. Tammy (not her real name) knows me by name now. Tammy was born in China, I guess she is around 60ish, she laughs at my prematurely grey hair and is delightfully sarcastic. She tells me off, shaking her head and ‘tsking’ at me if she hasn’t seen me in a while and, secretly, Tammy is my favourite staff member.
My ‘little brother’ is a good 30cm or so taller than me. He just moved back to Australia after living in Europe for a while, honing his skills as a jazz trombone player. He is your typically annoying younger sibling — he eats the fridge bare, doesn’t clean up after himself and the smell of his room is beyond description. He’s also Korean, and I’m an uber pale Australian so our ‘family’ photos are hilarious.
In a former life I was a nurse in a busy emergency department (ED) in Sydney. I almost ended up on a promo poster once. See, I’d gotten to know a genuinely lovely local woman particularly well. I’d cared for two of her daughters who were both pregnant and suffered horribly from hyperemesis (persistent severe vomiting) throughout their pregnancies. I met her again when one of her grandkids came into emergency, and one other time when a neighbour of hers had a fall.
The last time we met, I’d come on to the floor to start my shift and saw a large gathering of people around one of our acute-care beds. As I walked towards the group, a woman turned around and it was her. She walked over to me and told me her elderly father was passing away. She reached out and there in the middle of the ED we hugged. Another staff member had grabbed her phone and took a photo of this moment that she had found so moving. My medical colleagues all knew I was a Christian and this lady was a Lebanese migrant and a devout Muslim woman who wore traditional hijab. The two of us, from vastly different backgrounds connecting in that moment, struck a chord.
My Chinese friend from the post office, my Korean brother, my Lebanese Muslim visitor, the asylum seekers I cross paths with through work, the friend from childhood who was born in Papua New Guinea, the Aboriginal woman who lived down the street from us who always called me ‘Bub’ and let me sing along when she played the guitar. My life is richer because of every single one of them.
Friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, I continue to count myself blessed that I get to live alongside and learn from and with them. I think, I hope, we are all better people because of what we contribute to each other’s lives.
A learned young man once asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer was pretty simple really — love God and love your neighbour as you would yourself. Simple, right? And yet so complex. Or maybe not complex at all. Maybe it isn’t always easy to love or respect someone who looks different to us, speaks differently, believes different things, loves differently, lives differently, comes from a different place. But I sure want to give it a go. Because there is enough brokenness and discord in this world, and if loving my neighbour, my Muslim neighbour, my foreign neighbour, my gay neighbour, my black neighbour, my addicted neighbour — if loving them brings a little more harmony into this world, then count me in!
Belinda Cassie is a Salvation Army chaplain with the Salvos’ Inner City Social Mission, Sydney.