The room was quiet as the two men shared their stories. Both told of heartbreak and loss. One man’s son had died at the hands of Israeli soldiers. His son had been protesting the lack of opportunities for his people on the West Bank of Israel-Palestine. The other man’s son had also died—the victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber. The men came from opposite sides of the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
How was it that these two men could stand here and call each other friend and brother? It defied common sense. They should hate each other.
All the stories are full of pain. Take the time to listen. This was some advice our group received the first morning we were in Israel-Palestine. We had been encouraged to take time to listen to the people while exploring this land.
Somehow, these two men had taken the time to listen. In doing so they were able to hear the pain in each other’s story and to recognize the humanity in the other. Their stories were achingly similar. There was no doubt that these stories were full of pain. But instead of being driven apart, by taking the time to listen, the two men found a connection in their pain.
Every day we encounter people who have their own stories to tell. We live in a time when it’s easy to have interactions online instead of face to face. It’s easy to surround ourselves with others who think and believe the same things we do. This can make it even more difficult to understand those who have different experiences and opinions. Instead, it can lead to suspicion and even anger. It becomes us against them.
All the stories are full of pain. Take the time to listen. By doing so, we can hear the pain and the joy in each other’s stories and recognize the humanity in those who are different from us. Maybe today that person is the cashier at the grocery store or your neighbor down the street. Maybe it’s someone in your own family. Maybe it’s someone in your church who holds social or political opinions that don’t align with your own or who simply prefers another style of music in worship.
In 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul calls us to “strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” Each person has a story. If we take time to listen, we may find that we have more things that bind us together than we thought. It takes a little more effort and a little more work to take the time and listen. But we aren’t in this alone. As Paul goes on to say, “the God of love and peace will be with you.”