Editor’s note: Because the world seems filled with division right now, we here at the blog asked three different people to share their perspectives on the unity we can feel with others when we center our lives on the Savior. Their experiences follow.
A few summers ago, I interned with a nonprofit just outside Seattle. My husband and I were living in the most diverse school district in the United States. I helped run a school readiness program for 30 refugee children who had recently resettled with their families. These were children who’d seen, experienced, and lived through more in their short lives than I probably ever would. I was terrified we wouldn’t be able to find common ground, let alone a common language.
On my first day, I walked next to a cafeteria table and heard five different languages at once. I panicked when I realized that I could only pick out two of those languages. I watched young children honor Ramadan by abstaining from breakfast and lunch. I asked a girl if the tooth fairy visited her when she lost her tooth. It took three girls to cross our language divide and explain that they were taught to throw a lost tooth at the sun in the hopes that the sun would bring back a better tooth.
But as the weeks passed, I began to see more of what made us similar. During recess, I would gather flowers with the little girls and watch as they gathered berries to bring home to their moms. The boys asked me to play soccer with them until I was dripping in sweat and laughing as they dribbled in circles around me. In the library, I sat with a little boy and read a children’s vocabulary book in English and Arabic. I taught him the English words, and he patiently taught me the Arabic words.
The world often teaches us build walls between us and those who act, believe, or seem different from us. The Savior teaches us to love one another. He teaches us to help people who aren’t accepted in our society, even those who might be outcasts. He teaches us to care for people who have made mistakes. He teaches us to forgive the very people who have hurt us.
These refugees—these outcasts—taught me there is common ground between all of us because we are all children of God. Heavenly Father loves every one of us for our similarities and our differences. Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for all of us, not just some of us. If we choose to look for common ground, we may just find new friends, a new sense of community, and a deeper relationship with our Savior.
Let me tell you about one of my favorite photographs. But before you say that I have poor taste in art, let me explain that I love this photograph because it helps me put things in perspective.
The image I’m referring to was taken by the Voyager 1 space probe and is dubbed the “Pale Blue Dot.” In this image you can see the earth from about 3.7 billion miles away, and it’s less than one pixel in size. I like to imagine that this is the vantage point from which God might see us.
When I’m having a hard time, I like to look at this image. This perspective makes it easier for me to grasp the notion that whatever is troubling me may actually not be as bad as it seems. In times of contention or division, this makes it easier for me to grasp the concept that there is no “us versus them.” From that far away, we have no choice but to accept that there is just an “us”, a “we”… God’s children.
From that far away you can’t see borders, political opinions, religious differences, or any other excuse we use in our everyday lives to create division in Heavenly Father’s family. From that far away we are all just one. One of God’s creations, here for one purpose, which is to learn to be like Him. To learn to love like He loves. And all those perceived differences and divisions are simply a distraction.
I love that Heavenly Father, in His perfect view from where He sits, has enough patience to allow us to learn from trial and error. When we step back and see the big picture, it becomes easier to focus on the things that matter most: our spiritual growth, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and all the people God has placed in our path. He gives us the capacity to lend them a hand, because He knows we can lift them higher.
The other day I was on a social media site, scrolling down my feed and generally just passing time. Someone I followed had liked a post that intrigued me, and I opened it up to read the comments section. I was not prepared for what I found there. The conversation that followed the original post was angry and argumentative, with a lot of hate-filled speech directed toward one group or another. After spending a few minutes glancing over the conversation, I clicked away with a sick feeling in my stomach.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me or to anyone I know. Because, as citizens of the internet in this modern era, I and everyone else have seen too many of these conversations to count. Whether the conversations stem from a disagreement of politics, religion, culture, or otherwise, the end result is always ugly, with people leaving the interaction feeling hurt and misunderstood, and often with contempt or even hatred for those they disagree with.
This is not the Lord’s way. He commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34–35), and notice there are no caveats to His command. It isn’t “love one another, but only if he thinks the same as you,” or “love one another, but only if she loves you first,” or even “love one another by showing them the error of their ways.” Instead, He shows us that we need to love one another and forgive each other of our imperfections. But we lead with love first.
While today we are divided physically—let us strive to be unified spiritually and emotionally. While we are prevented from comforting each other in person—let us comfort each other through letters, emails, phone calls, and on social media. Rather than focusing on the things that pull us apart, let us strive to cling to the things that hold us together. We all need each other in the work of salvation, and that work is only accomplished through the unifying love of the Savior.