By DALE HANAMAN
RIPPEY, Iowa, April 10, 2018 – Last Thursday, April 5, I attended the funeral for Doris Brown, a woman who was important to me and to the rest of the congregation at our Rippey United Methodist Church. She was nearly 90 when she died.
She provided a legacy of family, commitment to children, to neighbors and friends, as well as to her church. That is the setting for these thoughts.
One of the songs chosen for congregational singing was “In Remembrance of Me,” which focuses on the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. The first verse sets the stage:
In remembrance of me, eat this bread. In remembrance of me, drink this wine.
In remembrance of me, pray for the time when God’s own will is done.
These are deep and powerful words to hold our attention. Gifts of God – bread and drink for each of us.
But the second verse speaks of even greater depth – the reason that we remember the bread and drink:
In remembrance of me, heal the sick. In remembrance of me, feed the poor.
In remembrance of me, open the door and let the neighbors in, let them in.
We don’t only eat and drink for our own health, our own safety, or for our own lives. To do so would be stingy, self-serving, or thinking only of ourselves. The focus is always on how we care for the least among us.
I have also been viewing some “TED Talks” online. To view them yourselves, you just need to connect to www.ted.com/talks.
One of the talks was by Christian Picciolini entitled, “My descent into America’s neo-Nazi movement – and how I got out.” Picciolini speaks eloquently about his neo-Nazi involvement and even more about leaving that movement. At one point he shared his interaction with another neo-Nazi, an injured soldier who wanted to return to Afghanistan to kill Muslim people. Picciolini arranged for the two of them to “drop by” a Mosque because a “Christian man” wanted to learn more about Islam. With a window of only 15 minutes – which stretched into over two hours – Picciolini’s friend became closely connected to the Imam and remains so this day.
It seems to me that we in Greene County are quite isolated from people who are really different from ourselves. We may interact in shops, restaurants, and stores with others, but we don’t know their names nor share our own. We leave our grandkid pictures in our pockets or purses. We seldom step out of our way to comfort, offer empathy, or share joyous occasions with others – unless we know them well already.
Perhaps the change need not be as wide as that of Christian Picciolini, yet we each need to be reflective and be open to change.
Until we do so, we will continue our sense of separation: city or rural, Democrat or Republican, old or young, gun supporters or anti-gun.
I believe we need to become vulnerable, loving, patient, welcoming – ready to “open the door and let your neighbors in, let them in.”
The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.