Who am I?

I live on a predominately Jewish block. My place is straight across from the Jewish community center, there is a small Jewish school building at the other end of the street, and all the houses in between hold all the families.

Every day that I walk between my car and my apartment, I pass many men and children (rarely women). The women may smile, the men step aside or keep their eyes down, and the children are usually focused on the adults. I’m always curious to know more about these individuals and, most often, I am unnoticed. What is so apparent to me on each walk is how strong the Jewish culture is. It’s almost like a palpable and visual bubble that is wrapped around each person I see, whether they are alone or walking in a group. These people have a way of life that is so embedded in each of their hearts….like they’re all connected to one super strong life line.

This week I have been more aware of this deep connection certain people groups have to their heritage, their spiritual practices, and their homelands. Of course, watching the Olympics also caused me to focus on each country’s pride as well.

With each group’s sense of unity and oneness, I also notice the way they experience pain on a grander scale. A wrong done to them, as a people group, hurts. And they know the hurt individually even if the wrong that was done to their people occurred in the past.

I don’t know this feeling. It makes me think of the scene from E.T. when his family comes to bring him home. They all have lit up red hearts! And watching that scene, as a viewer, you feel compassionate towards this amazing group of wonderful, intelligent, kind extra terrestrials. You also feel like an outsider to their connectedness. You want to be a part of their connectedness!

I wonder what it feels like to belong to a group and an identity so thoroughly that I feel pain that wasn’t caused directly to me…

What would my life be like if I was really, really “Proud to be an American”?

What would I feel if I practiced the traditions of my ancestors? Or if I knew the stories of their experiences as they came to the U.S.? Would I be able to bask in the elations of their triumphs and glories? Would I cry and feel my own heart breaking at their traumas and injustices?

Am I more or less of a compassionate person because I am not connected to a large people group? Is my view of the world smaller or can it hold more capacity?

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