Are We Created Equal?

Good morning from Westminster, MD.

I grew up in Reisterstown, Maryland, a Northwest suburb of Baltimore. I love Baltimore. I love the Orioles, I love the Ravens, I love the inner harbor and, of course, I love Maryland crabs. After spending three years living in the Central American country of Nicaragua, I was extremely excited to come home to the city I love, Charm City. Baltimore, like any city in the world, has had its share of problems, but it is my city and always will be. As a lifelong lover of Baltimore, the past week has been heartbreaking. As I watch the coverage of riots, looting, fighting, and destruction it makes me wonder, where do we go from here? After the tragic death of another young African-American man, is healing even possible? We live in a country that is being torn apart from both ends at its racial and cultural seams, and the situation only appears to be getting worse. Is there hope?

This is the question that ran through my mind as Reid Robinette, the Pastor of Crossroads Community Church, asked the congregation to pray for the city of Baltimore on Sunday morning. A little later in the service I received my answer. As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe that God asks us to take steps of faith, trusting that he is faithful to answer our prayers. As Reid began to give his sermon, one such step of faith became clear. As I listened to Reid discuss communion and how much who you ate with mattered in the first century a thought came to my mind – Jesus chose to have meals with a lot of different people. From religious people, to government officials, to the outcasts of society, to his closest friends, Jesus sat down and ate with a lot of different people. There were more than likely a lot of different reasons Jesus chose to do this, but I can’t help but think that one of his main purposes was to get to know truly know them. Jesus knew that to truly understand someone and to speak into their life you have to know them.

What does this have to do with the current state of affairs? I believe everything. As I listened to Reid speak and thought more about this truth, I began to wonder if our biggest problem is that we do not truly know each other. If maybe our inability to solve the racial and cultural issues is more a matter of proximity than policy. Over the years, we have done an incredible job of building walls between cultures and races of every kind. While the saying might go “good fences make good neighbors”, the reality is that walls create disconnect, distrust, and fear. This has led to a society of separation, where people make assumptions about people of other races and cultures without actually really knowing them. This is an easy trap to fall into and I would be lying to say that I have never been a part of the problem. This separation is not an issue created by one race or culture, but rather by the product of wall building by all of them. Today I call on all of us to start tearing them down.

This morning, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, I am declaring that enough is enough. We need to begin building bridges instead of walls and I believe that starts with truly knowing and understanding each other. In an effort to make that happen I am calling on everyone who reads this to do something very simple – share a meal with someone from the other side of the wall. Over my three years of working in communities in Nicaragua, I found that the best way to determine how we could work together to create change was to truly understand and know each other, and to know from where our perspective on life and the world is derived. More often than not, these times together were shared over a meal. By sharing a meal together, we were able to celebrate our differences and see that in the end we had a lot more in common than we thought. We all had dreams. We all desired to live a life that mattered. We all wanted to be understood. We found that we were a lot more the same than we were different.

Today I am launching the Share A Meal Experiment or S.A.M.E. in hopes of creating a movement of conversation and change. By advocating this simple step of reaching across cultural and racial divides to share a meal with someone you would not typically choose to, SAME’s desire is that unnecessary and harmful walls will begin to fall down. Yes, this is an extremely simple step and not necessarily the solution itself, but it could very well lead us there. When we understand that we are a lot more the same than we are different, we will be able to work together to bring about real change. I believe this was the dream of one Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

The challenge of SAME is that it is an experiment and, therefore, is not a guaranteed success. First, in order for the experiment to even take place it requires people to choose to participate – that means you. Second, it is necessary that people actually take the time to Share A Meal and get to know each other. Third, it requires people to take the risk that this could possibly make a difference. To that point I would say, what is the harm? If it doesn’t lead to anything then you spent a little time eating, something you do anyway and possibly made a new friend. On the other hand, what if it could? What if this could be the beginning of a new era of racial reconciliation in our country? I believe it is worth the chance.

With all of that in mind, the Share A Meal Experiment is creating an online forum that will allow you to show the world that you were willing to take the risk to Share A Meal. Additionally, there will be an opportunity to share your experience and encourage others to take the same chance. In the meantime, I would ask that you share this post with as many people as possible and, of course, share a meal. 

I believe there is hope. Share A Meal and show the world that you do too.        

– James Belt 

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