This seems to happen to me daily when I am in Hong Kong. For example, one day this week we had two men who came into the tailoring shop to pick up the shirts they had ordered. They were from Kenya, and one was a member of the Kenyan Parliament. And, they were very keen to talk with me about the current political situation in America. The following day, a family from Canada came in wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis, obviously enjoying a holiday – though leis aren’t the usual garb in Hong Kong!
Then, on my birthday, January 20, I was invited to attend a dinner to celebrate the birthday of one of the tailors’ children. Shayan Ahmed Anonnor was turning 1 year old. The celebration was held at the Pakistani Club in Hong Kong, and the entire Bangladeshi Muslim community was invited. Even the Ambassador of the Bangladesh Consulate attended. It was an honor for me to be asked to come, and to be escorted there with three of my tailors on a bus. (see picture above). As the beautiful Muslim women came in, and the children ran around screaming and playing, and the men raced after kids and talked of important events, I thought a bit about adventure and perspective. As the inauguration of the new President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, (who has been quite vocal about the Muslim community), was gearing up, I realized that there I was -- the only Christian, Caucasian woman (and priest, at that!) having dinner with over 500 Muslims. I thought about how fear causes separation and a desire to exclude others, while building relationships creates a desire to include others. We can resist the adventure of entering into relationships with those who seem different, unfamiliar, perhaps even frightening. Or, we can see those different and unfamiliar relationships as an opportunity to expand the scope of our lives.
To be sure, not all adventures are worth taking, but to avoid adventure because of fear, will always leave us smaller than we could otherwise be. Our literary mentor, Bilbo Baggins, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, was taught about just such a perspective by his mentor, the wizard, Gandalf who said to him, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love…”
When we are afraid of adventure, we think we can hold evil in check by our own power. But, the only way to keep the darkness at bay is to change our perspective from fear to curiosity, and from curiosity to kindness and love.