Sunday, September 1, 2013

#BlogElul: If we could see inside other people's hearts #takeaseatmakeafriend

One of the most powerful and thought-provoking sermons I ever heard was delivered by a friend while we were students at Hebrew Union College. It was her 'Senior Sermon' - the sermon we all give before we graduate in one of the weekday services at the college. She shared an experience she'd had on the train during her commute into the city. One day there was a passenger seated nearby whose music was playing objectionably loudly through his headphones. It was clearly a distraction to all seated nearby, but no-one was doing anything. My friend politely tapped the man on the shoulder and asked if he wouldn't mind turning down the music a bit. He responded furiously, cursing her and telling her to 'watch it', threatening to make trouble for her when they left the train.  She was terrified and unsure what to do next.  No-one nearby on the train spoke up or came to her aid. She'd recently been reading the book 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom, a book that I drew from just this past Friday for a creative service where Morrie's words inspired us to do our own spiritual preparations for the High Holydays.

'What would Morrie do?' she asked herself. A little further into the trip, before they reached their destination and departed, she saw that she had an opportunity to speak to the man again. 'I'm sorry,' she said. 'I didn't realize how much your music meant to you.' The anger in his face dissipated. He started to tell her that he'd lost everything - his girlfriend, his job... his music was all he had left. In that brief moment he felt seen by someone who cared about him more than they cared about the volume on his iPod. They both left the train in peace. The moment was brief, but there was no question that it was transformative for both of them.

The powerful video above asks us to contemplate how much we don't know about people. What would it take to uncover just a little of what lies beneath the surface? In the context of community, how transformative could that be?

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