Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who is my neighbor?

If you look closely you can see the subtle signs that I have new neighbors. Judging by the nest, they appear to be of the avian variety. How exciting! Of all the beautiful birds I have seen and heard since coming to El Salvador I couldn't wait to see what had moved in above the broken ceiling tile just off my balcony. A puffed up, yellow breasted Chio perhaps with it's sweet songs, or the Salvadoran National Bird, a brilliant blue, red and green Torogoz? 
El Salvador's National Bird,
the Torogoz

Nope. Your common, run-of-the-mill, brown and grey, Pigeon.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tad disappointed. I mean, Pigeons? How many Pigeons have you seen in your lifetime? Hundreds? Thousands? All pretty much the same, nothing special, and quite frankly more annoying than anything else. I was looking forward to sharing my home with some endangered species that just happened to carry the gene that will cure cancer. Something, anything more exotic. I am in El Salvador, after all. 

Reflecting on my feelings toward my new neighbor made me think about some of the challenges and frustrations we are facing as a Joining Hands Network in formation. All have come singing a different song, donning different colors, from different places and diverse backgrounds. It has not always been easy to accept one another as neighbor and recognize that all are in search of and committed to working for the same things: a safe place to call home, the means to care for family, and to live in peace with nature and neighbor. 

Are we really so different from the Pigeon? For all I know, the Pigeon may not be entirely satisfied with the new accommodations. This Pigeon probably dreamed of a spacious place, high up in the branches of a grand Ceiba tree, and has accepted a comfortable nest, out of the wind, in spite of the so-so neighbors. But what a gift! To accept one another "tal cual somos" just as we are, with our strengths and weaknesses, our gifts and our limitations. Our first mission as Joining Hands El Salvador is this: acceptance. Acceptance paves the way for relationships built on respect, trust and mutual support. If we can remember that we are created different on purpose, just like the Chio, Pigeon and Torogoz, and all in the image of a Loving Parent who cares deeply and wants the best for every one of us, maybe then we will worry less about who are our neighbors (or who are not) and focus instead on the common hopes and dreams we share and how we will achieve our goals together.