We slept in the Hattonchatel Chateaux Wednesday night, built in medieval times and destroyed during WWI. (Ironically, the rebuilding of it was financed by an American socialite from Massachusetts). The views from the hilltop promenade were spectacular for almost 360 degrees, and it was easy to understand the value of such a vantage point during a time of war.
Our first stop on Thursday was a somber one at St Mihiel cemetery, where over 4300 US servicemen from WWI are buried. As we walked through the cemetery, I found it difficult to explain to H the senseless destruction of lives and history brought about by wars.
It made me think back to last week in Normandy with two of my dear friends from the retreat center. One of my friends is Muslim, the other is Jewish, and I was raised Christian. In the week we spent together, these titles and parts of our identity were not important and never came up. The fact that one of us celebrates Eid and one celebrates Sabath and one celebrates religion on Sundays wasn't important. Our skin tones are different, but all we see is each other's beauty. Our country of origin is not important, we accept and learn about our differences without need of fear or conversion. We respect each other completely.
We had dinner the other night with my Muslim friend, I asked her to share a little bit about her religion with H. I intend to ask my Jewish friend to do the same. I want him to see the beauty in diversity, not fear it. And it's interesting that after all of our talks recently about who started the World Wars, we just happen to be staying with a lovely German man who couldn't be more kind or a more attentive host.
H is learning a valuable lesson from this trip, stereotypes keep us from meeting people who are just like us. When we look beyond the ways we identify ourselves to fit into a community, we realize that deep down we all have the same basic need to feel safe and loved. When we begin to see the humanity in each individual, it is much harder to fear someone because they appear to be different than us.
I have great respect for the soldiers who have given their lives during times of war. My dream is that one day, no mother will have to mourn her son or daughter at a cemetery because of our differences. Instead, we can celebrate and rejoice in our diversity and our shared humanity. I realize that may sound naïve or over simplistic, but isn't that what dreams are all about?