Local community is where you can find warmth

Published 9:03 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

Like many of you, I am looking forward to getting 2017 started with positive energy and excitement about what lies ahead. 2016 was a difficult year for our family, our country, our loved ones and friends, so how do we harness the hope to be optimistic about what is to come?

We know life is uncertain and that can be unsettling. How do we keep fear from leading our decisions, preventing us from growing and increasing our divisions? It feels as if the world is so polarized, yet every day we come together to work, to raise our children and make our lives fulfilling.

This is our commonality as humans and we need to celebrate it. There is not one of us that has every answer, but collectively we can move forward. We must resist ideological barriers, as they are not constructive in aiding communities to operate.

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Life in the Kirchner house has had its ups and downs in 2016, full of change, conflict, growth, humility and strength. And through it all, the community of Danville has loved us.

A dear friend and mentor, knowing my worries, invited me to the Sunday service at the Presbyterian Church in Danville. No pressure, no judgment, just come and be quiet, find peace. I will admit, being raised Catholic, I was fearful of the unknown. What customs and prayers are used? Will people wonder why all of a sudden I appeared?

What a travesty if I had let fear keep me away. Since attending, I have listened and watched people greet each other warmly (“how about those Cats?”); and found inspiration in wisdom shared. Our heartfelt, private conversations with God may not be the same, but as I have learned, we are all children of God, challenged and charged with bringing light and love into our small corners of the world.

It doesn’t matter that I was raised Catholic, or that I don’t know all of the songs they sing. What matters is the peace we find and share together, kindly. This is our commonality as humans.

The challenge is to know your neighbor. Know your community. Find God in others and be respectful. Community means to come together; tracking differences often pulls us apart.

We should not let fear of the unknown guide our thoughts and actions. We may not have all the same worship practices or name for God, but surely hope, love and kindness transcend that fear and bind us. The act of communion and breaking bread celebrates togetherness and gives foundation to community and we can honor that each and every day with each other.

And dare I say it? Politics. But the same applies. It is hard for us to know when it is time to resist and when it is time to construct. Much like Sisyphus, each election season the boulder rolls down the hill and we begin the challenge of rolling it back up once again. We may have voted for different people, or believe social reform should take different shapes and sizes, but in the end, we are trying to figure out how we can make our world the best it can be.

I have labored over a topic for this op-ed. I wanted to say something important, something that mattered, something relatable. All of the controversy and division makes talking politics or religion nearly impossible. So I am talking politics and religion, but my thought is to move past it to find the common humanity in all of us. We need to remember we are all God’s children. We need to find kindness and we need to respect each other. That is our solace in a world that can be cold and confusing.

Marjorie Moore said, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”

Get to know your community. Get involved. Understand how your local government works. It is where change and people meet. Find God in your neighbor again.

Let’s welcome 2017 with an even playing field so that we may face the unknown together. I have challenged myself to reach out in times of loneliness and fear and connect with what is right here. Each of us has our own path, but we all share in the human condition. Whomever we pray to or wherever we look for spiritual inspiration, it is decency and consideration that are part of the path forward.

It turns out I was welcomed with open arms at the Presbyterian Church. No one asked about where I had been or what I was doing there; they only said, “we are happy you are here.”

Be brave, be open, be grateful and be welcoming. It doesn’t matter where you are coming from or where you are going, the work to be done is right here.

Jennifer Kirchner is the chief communications officer for the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.

About Jennifer Kirchner

Director of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau; regular guest columnist for The Advocate-Messenger.

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