Walking with the Other

Leon, Leon Kehl

On Sunday, my wife and I went for a walk with a Turkish Muslim family. I have known the husband for almost four years, but this was the first time I met his wife and two children since they arrived a few months ago. He had to flee to Canada almost five years ago, leaving her and their oldest child behind; she was pregnant at the time with their second child. 

As we walked, I noticed a few glances our way as we made our way through the park. His wife wears a hijab.  I’ve seen those glances before, and know that sometimes they mean “Why are you walking with ‘them’?”  

We welcome many people to Canada, but too often we all seem to stick within our own communities, perhaps because that is easier and comfortable. Yet in doing so, do we not remain the “other” to each other? I’ve met and walked with my friend physically, but also mentally and emotionally as he first sought to obtain residency in Canada and waited for his family to join him. In turn, he has walked with me because he has a lot of business experience that I value. So this was very much a celebratory walk, but I also pondered the tragic events in London just a week before.

My mother talks with a Palestinian woman, while my son sits with a young Syrian

The next day, I thought about another walk through the same park on Sept. 11, 2011. People were encouraged on that day to organize a walk on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For me, that felt like a positive way to respond to that horrible day, so I organized an event; a group of perhaps 25-30 people showed up. Some were from my church, some had become friends through refugee sponsorships, and I met new friends that day. Everyone who attended came from various countries and faith traditions. Yet, we came for a common purpose on that warm September day – to walk together and to learn more about each other.

We didn’t change the world that day but perhaps we changed each other and others we encountered that day. I think that is how the world changes. An important parable for many of us Christians is the parable of the mustard seed:

Matthew 17:20b NIV – . . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

For me, this parable is about taking small steps of faith and those small steps will, in fact, lead to mountains moving. 

Two women, one from Syria and one from my church, with my father and a Sikh man in the background.

As a company, our team members come from different cultures and faith traditions, with a large percentage who are Muslim. The pandemic forced us to leave a central office and we’ve now embraced the home-centered office approach to working. Yet we’ve also appreciated the ability to take a number of walks together and then share refreshments together. There is something about walking with each other that brings us together.

So my encouragement to you during this pandemic is to walk with each other.  Should we not all take this opportunity to exercise our faith, whatever it is, to work to remove the mountains that sometimes keep us apart?