One of the differences I’ve noticed in my life over the last twenty years is the people.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a very small, insular set of friends and family. The people I was closest to were like-minded, in part because I was taught not to invest myself in those who were not believers. There was my immediate family, my mother and my brother, and my church family, the pastor and his family and the other congregants, but outside of that circle, my friendships were casual and lacked a certain depth.
Today, my circle of friends is expansive. In part this is due to the internet, of course, making the world smaller and our access to people around that smaller world easier and more immediate. I have people I call friends in England and Germany, France, Pakistan, Israel, Australia, Chile, Canada. Some of these are people I may never actually meet in person, others I have already hugged and shared rooms with.
Those friends I consider nearest and dearest to me live hundreds of miles away from me. My local friends come from different worlds, some I have met due to my love of certain television shows, or certain music. Some I have met because they attend Pagan events. Some I have met because they are writers or photographers. Some I know because they volunteer with San Francisco Pride. It is truly an amazing cross section of the Bay Area where I live.
Teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, administrators, public servants, engineers, writers, actors, musicians, gay, straight, transgendered, bi-sexual, monogamous, polyamorous, asexual, child-free, childless, parents of one or many, single, married, divorced, widowed, wealthy, poor, barely getting by, Pagan (of all kinds), Christian (of many denominations), Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, uncertain, searching…the landscape is breathtaking, and I am honored and humbled with each new friend I make.
I can’t imagine going back to a place where my friends and family were so defined by similarity. It would be like eating the same food every day or listening to the same song all the time.
I have to add to this that in the last ten years I have been witness to some of the most selfless acts of kindness to strangers, monetary gifts bestowed with no thought of return; thoughtful, amazing gifts given; groups of strangers banding together to raise another stranger out of crisis.
There was a time I would have believed this impossible, for such charity was, in my mind, reserved for the righteous, by which I believed a certain set of Christians…the “real” Christians, and the reward for this charity, the proof as it were, was winning souls.
Everyday this group of people I call friends proves that idea false. Everyday I am grateful for being able to see beyond who and what I am and welcome people who are different into my life.