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Posted By Opening the Heart
Two days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, my patient, "Kathy", came to see me. She is an Episcopal priest and she told me the following story that deeply moved me. With some changes to protect confidentiality, she gave me permission to share it with you. She told me with her beautiful and proud smile that she had made a new friend and she reminded me that making friends was a goal she had set for herself for her personal life this year.

She gave me some background history of the new friendship. She said that about a year ago her church had had an evening of festive and "noisy" celebration and, so, the next day Kathy brought gifts, peace offerings, to her neighbors. One neighbor, "Robbie", was grateful for the gifts and said she was just so happy that there was "life" happening in the church and she invited my patient to stay for tea. They immediately developed a fondness for each other and they talked easily and openly. Robbie, dressed in traditional Muslim clothes is married with no children. Her husband is from Tunisia. On Christmas day, Robbie brought a homemade praline cheesecake to Kathy's church. They shared a warm friendship and Kathy was pleased that she didn't have to worry about complications to the friendship because Robbie was an observant Muslim.

This past Sunday, 9/11, Kathy gave a sermon to her congregation that she felt touched the right notes of inclusion, compassion and perspective. After the service, she said to her 8 year old daughter, Kira, "Why don't we go visit Robbie." Kira had come to grow just as fond of Robbie as her mother and said "Yeah!Let's go!" When they walked over to Robbie's house, Kathy immediately saw that Robbie was troubled, preoccupied. Kathy asked what was wrong. "I'm sorry to speak so plainly in front of you, Kira, but I am sad and afraid. I have to pick up a prescription at CVS and I'm afraid to go out of the house on this day." Without missing a beat, Kathy said "Why don't we all go?" "Yeah", said Kira. "You would do this for me?" asked Robbie. "Of course", said Kathy and took her by the arm. After the CVS run, Kathy asked Robbie to go with them to Bed Bath and Beyond to do an errand and Robbie gladly agreed. Afterward, Kathy told Robbie that she wanted to go to church for a late afternoon service. She wanted to hear a colleague give his sermon. "It'll be some music and a nice time, nothing heavy". Robbie agreed. Kathy told me that thye sermon led them into "diversity land", but she added that he was not inclusive and, in fact, ignored anyone in the congregation who might be Muslim, or love someone who was. At the end of the service "My Country Tis of Thee" was played and Kathy was aware that Robbie was weeping. Robbie said that for 10 years she had not felt that this was her country. "I am an American, but I am afraid, and I am treated differently since 9/11" Kathy just held Robbie while she sobbed.

Kathy is one of those rare people who can be totally authentic and present in the moment while, at the same time, hold a wider perpective. Call it a spiritual or mindful awareness, like bringing gifts the next day to neighbors, or like holding an awareness of giving a challenging sermon while at the same time thinking of a Muslim neighbor who might need the loving reaching out of a friend.... I'm so glad that Kathy can give those in her churcfh the "life" Robbie heard that Friday night a year ago. I'm so glad that the community has a leader who is capable of walking the walk.

With Love and Respect, Jon

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