We Can Learn to be Good to Each Other

We Can Learn to be Good to Each Other

A few months ago, Mormons started knocking on my door. The first time I saw them was the same day a maniac drove into a crowd of pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge in London while my husband was .4 miles away at the Cenotaph with his field trip group of high school students. Many people might have taken that as some kind of divine sign, but I just didn’t feel like talking when I was in half a panic. So I asked them to come back another day.

It took some back and forth before we found a time that worked. People kept asking why I didn’t just tell them to go away. But the truth is, I don’t mind talking about religion. I like to learn about other people’s beliefs. I’d love to sit down with someone from every major religion and ask questions. The only way to truly understand something is to learn, and to be open to that learning. I have a lot of religious discussions with people who believe different things than I do, and I’d like to believe that makes me a more sympathetic person. But I digress.

Eventually, we found a day that worked. The Mormons came for a visit. I made tea and I learned about their beliefs. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. A lecture, I suppose, on how my current way of life was sinful and I needed to convert if I wanted to get into the good afterlife. But that wasn’t how the conversation went.

First, the two men who came to talk to me were incredibly friendly. They asked about what I do, what my husband does, and how things had been in my life. They remembered things I had told them when they’d come to the door before. They even commented on my Star Wars socks and my Tea Tardis (geeks really do come from all walks of life). And honestly, I think it was me who broached the topic of their beliefs. But even then, they didn’t launch into a lecture.

The entire conversation was just that – a conversation. A friendly chat. They asked me about what I believed and they didn’t treat me like a crazy person when I talked about reincarnation, about divine energy surrounding everything, about how I don’t think you need a priest or a church to connect you to divinity. And then they told me what they believed. They answered my questions. They didn’t read bible verse to me and they didn’t try to tell me I was wrong. They simply presented their point of view and pointed out the similarities and differences.

I asked some tough questions. I honestly expected them to balk at some point. I asked about Hell and damnation and sin (which I confessed I don’t believe in). There was no gasping. There were no raised voices. We were just three people talking about philosophy and beliefs. And it wasn’t until they left that I realized I never felt like they were preaching to me. I never felt like I was being converted (even if I knew that was their ultimate purpose). I felt refreshed after that conversation, like I had a lot to think about. Not in a spiritual way, but in a human way.

At the end of that meeting, I admitted I probably won’t ever convert. I had a bad experience with organized religion in my youth and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it. I’m not a religious person, though I do consider myself spiritual. I like to meander my own way through the spiritual world, even if I also like to know about other people’s paths. So I don’t know if they’ll ever come back to chat with me again. But I know that we prayed at the end of that meeting – because I never take issue with sharing a religious experience that is offered in a friendly and open manner. I know that during that prayer they acknowledged me as I presented myself and asked for good fortune for me in my work, which genuinely touched me.

But I think the biggest lesson I learned from that meeting was that it isn’t hard to be good to each other. I mean, I have said this for a long time, but it was certainly reinforced that afternoon. It doesn’t take much to be kind. All you need to do is to open your mind to another person’s perspective. All you need to do is ask genuine questions and be open to honest answers. When you disagree, you can do so politely. And at the end of the conversation, you don’t have to agree about everything. The Mormons who visited me told me that they believe there is one right path to the ideal afterlife. I told them I believe there are many paths. But we didn’t get angry at each other. They didn’t storm out of my house. The conversation kept right on going.

If people who obviously hold their religious beliefs close to their core identity, people who devote a large portion of their life to teaching about their religion on the slim hope that a few people will join their church; if these people can be kind and open and understanding, if they can speak with patience even after people slam doors in their faces half the day, anyone can do it. Imagine what the world would be like if we could all speak to each other about our thoughts and beliefs with such dignity and respect. What a different world we might live in.

One Reply to “We Can Learn to be Good to Each Other”

  1. Megan, if more people were open minded and receptive to the beliefs of others, the world would be a better place.

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