My local park on the North Shore of Massachusetts is beautiful. It features a rose garden, a promenade overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a vast stretch of lawn. On any given weekend that park brings together a rich variety of people.
This past weekend a Hindu community held a cookout. You couldn’t miss the smell of curry or the women standing up to their knees in the ocean with their beautiful silk saris moving in the breeze. Several children played Cricket on the lawn.
I was completely mystified by the rules of the game. I asked a parent watching to explain the rules to me. As we talked I learned that they were from a Hindu Temple that meets in a nearby town. He said the park reminds him of his childhood in Bangalore, India. We introduced ourselves, his name is Amar.
Such diversity is a gift in Beverly, a city I recently move to. It reminds me that the greater Boston area has long been a magnate for immigrants from all corners of the globe. My own ancestors came from England in the late nineteenth century to work in textile mills.
The next day was Sunday, and in my Christian tradition was Pentecost. We read from the Bible these words from Acts 2:
‘When the day of Pentecost came, they (Jesus’ followers) were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’
Imagine, being able to speak the same language. Being able to understand each other on a deep level. The preacher for the day said:
On Pentecost they spoke a common language, it was the language of love.”
In our pluralistic society, I give thanks for a local park that serves as common ground for different types of people to gather. Apart from difference of language, religion, styles of dress or games we play, we find that we have much in common.
Could it be that as I watched a new game called Cricket and made acquaintance with Amar that I was experiencing a Pentecost moment? Could it be that we were finding common ground upon which we both could stand?
I believe we are healthiest as a nation (and as people of Faith), when we both honor our differences and celebrate that which we hold in common. Of course, we have to make the effort to get to know each other. For Amar and me, our local park became common ground, dare I say, a ‘sacred place’ where we both were at home.