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Only Us

May 29, 2013

We are living now in the midmost heart of the Pacific Ocean, gazing out at a sunlit lagoon, glimmering with shades of deep aqua, sky blue and navy. Dan and I feel led to this as our place to be at this season of our lives. We have spent nearly three months exploring the possibilities for living sustainably here, in terms of housing, services, food and all the practical aspects of life. Above all, we have been getting to know the people, also many shades and hues both physically and spiritually. We have found their arms open to us and already have friendships rooted in faith, laughter, and a mutual love for Aitutaki.

I am reminded of a powerful statement made by my social work supervisor in a New York City hospital in Harlem. She said, "Prejudice is the failure to individualize." When we think of the natives of the South Pacific or the Mexicans or the Papaa (as white folks are called here) does a stereotype come to mind? Given the horrific acts of terrorism these days, whether in the form of highly publicized attacks on individual civilians or drones indiscriminately mowing down families in the dark of a desert night, it is all too easy to generalize about "those people" out of fear.

As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and they are us." We can all do our part to combat the fatal orientation of judging our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities or religions by remembering never to generalize. Never to participate by listening to or telling racist or religious jokes. To meet each person one by one without assuming what they will be like. By being open to the fascination of differences and at the same time our common bond as beings always striving for a good life.

Getting to know the people of this island is like watching the slow opening of a many-petalled rose. We have had many conversations about their joys, their griefs and losses, their pride in the fish and other bounties of this place. I love to see their eyes shining as they talk about the coconut tree, "the tree of life" with its many healing and nurturing properties. It is now my balm of choice. I enjoy the cheeky banter that is characteristic of people on this particular island. I have attended several churches, always marvelling at the hearty and soulful Maori singing. The fellowship and sisterhood afterwards has been a way to find new friends as well.

So I am deeply struck anew at how alike we all are and yet how utterly, completely unique. May we always remember to be open-hearted, willing to trust the trustworthy, have sacred curiosity for each other’s stories, for it is in the stories that we discover the personhood, and the unity. There is no they, only us.

Humanity


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

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