Friday, April 5, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: An open invitation to our beloved community


How many people are in your family?  I came from a family with 12 children.  I have seven of my own children and 25 grandchildren.  But in my heart, my family is much bigger than that.

We are all family.

The person who is in prison is my family.

The person who has HIV/AIDS is my family.

The people who live in poverty all over the world are my family.

The homeless people who sleep under bridges all over America are my family.  

The person walking toward me, next to me, and behind me is my family.

The person may be a strange at first - but when we both nod and say "hello" and strike up a conversation, we may find out that we have much more in common than if we had never met and never taken the opportunity to know another child of God.  We are all connected through a bond called humanity and a race called the human race.

The nice thing about the human race is there are no real barriers - only the ones we have constructed out of fear of the "other."

The "other" who does not look like me, or dress like me, or think like me or act like me.  You know who I am talking about.


"Those people."

Ah, those people who are so different that they just can't be trusted. Those people we may  have been carefully taught to avoid.  Don't drive in that neighborhood.  It isn't safe.  They are not like us.

Fear of other people can really make it difficult to make new friends. Fear can keep you from saying "hello."  And if you can't even say "hello" how would it ever be possible to become friends?

You're stuck. Forever.

Unless you step out of your comfort zone, you will only know people like you.  Your family will be really small-just the people in your family of origin and the family you create with someone else and perhaps a few close friends that you think of as family.

Imagine if you could open your mind to the possibility of being more inclusive of "others" who are not like you, letting them into your life and how different your life might be.

Here's one way you do it.

On Saturday, April 13, you and your family hop in the car and drive to Kansas City Kansas Community College at 7250 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan., and park in a lot by or near the Athletic Field House.

It's free.  You walk in.  That's free too.  You enter and see people all around you who are different from you.   People in ethnic dress from many countries and cultures will be there from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.  Some sit at display tables waiting for you to come over and say "hello."

They have been waiting for you to come over and introduce yourself and ask about their culture.  Some have ethnic food for you to try, healthy food prepared from scratch.  Others get up on stage and perform  some aspect of their culture through music or's magical.

You are at the 8th Annual WYCO Ethnic Festival & Human Family Reunion.

It is a community-building event where you could meet an artist from Barbados named Danny and fall in love with his portraits. They are so life-like and real!  He may even become your friend.

Like family.

Then you have an Oprah "Ah-ha!" moment.

Your family has grown by one more person you may never have met if you had not made the effort.

And because you made the effort, you are blessed to discover that all those differences among us are to be celebrated, not feared.  You discover the common humanity we all share as people with the same need and desire that all human beings strive for-a sense of belonging.

You realize that agape love-brotherly love- is a powerful tool that can be used to create peace and unity-starting in your own community and branching out from there.

You have discovered the Beloved Community of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And you are now living his DREAM.

Karen Hernandez