Giving Thanks for the Gift of Walking and Sitting at Round Table Together
Author: Linda Toia
Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
As we near the date of our 15th annual Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace & Reconciliation on April 29th, Linda Toia shares a reflection on last year's walk.
I don’t want to just listen to people talk about the importance of connecting. I want to CONNECT. I want to sit at tables with people of all types and faiths (or none). I want to be part of an organic process that offers people the opportunity to come together in a safe setting and share something of their lives with each other. The experience of the Peace Walk is not about who is right or who is wrong. It is not about who is educated or who is not. It is not about whose religion is better or more important. It is not about how old a person is, or how much money someone earns, or what a person looks like. It is not about someone’s professional status or about how (or whether) someone prays.
The Peace Walk is about respecting each other, learning from each other, listening – truly listening to each other. It is about broadening our understanding of the beloved community of God. It is about taking the risk of sharing some of our beliefs, fears, and experiences in life with someone we may or may not know. It is about trusting that someone will listen to us and that somehow we both will be changed in the process. It is about eating together at a common table and forming connections and community.
The Peace Walk is about walking together out in the community and then being willing to sit at the table with the colored tablecloth that matches the colored dot on our leaflets. It is about taking the risk of separating from our friends and sitting with people we don’t know. People who may look different than we do, people who may believe something very different than us, people who might be reluctant to talk with us because we don’t know each other. And…this might to turn out to be an opportunity for new connections and relationships. And it might not. Whatever happens, we are willing to take that risk, trusting that this is a step towards broadening our thinking and perhaps our understanding about people and maybe even a broader glimpse into the mystery of God.
As for me – I give thanks. I give thanks for the many people who made this remarkable event possible. I give thanks for all the “behind the scenes” work that took place in the kitchen at Masjidullah, to prepare food for almost 600 walkers, for the people setting up tables and chairs, for the organizing at the masjid that I don’t even know about and particularly for the incredible hospitality extended by our brothers and sisters at Masjidullah. This was the second year they have hosted us and we give thanks.
I also give special thanks to the people of my beloved Peace Walk community. For their willingness to trust the process and to do all they could to help the process work (and it did!!!). For their inspiration and guidance along the way. For their love and friendship. They are more than my community. They are my family.
I give thanks for the opportunity to sit at tables together. We are entering our 15th year and we have had wonderful programs that have provided a way for us to make many deep connections with people of different faith traditions. May we now continue to develop creative ways to provide opportunities to be together around the table, growing relationships, supporting each other, listening to each other, and gaining strength in this most important interfaith work we have been given to do. Let us continue to build bridges between people of different faith traditions and walk together in strength as we step back into our everyday lives. Let’s commit to be there for each other and for those we encounter who need our support. Let us stay open to what is next on our journey. Let us listen to that place of love and wisdom inside ourselves and in each other for what is next.
--Linda Toia, Program Chairperson