By Derik Hamby
This past May I traveled to a preaching conference in Denver. To save expenses I stayed outside the city and traveled in on light rail each morning and back each evening. The trip lasts about 45 minutes and gave me a much more intimate look at an amazing city.
In Virginia I pastor a church in a community where I drive myself everywhere. Traveling with strangers for a week gave me much to think about and ponder. I had some great conversations and observed life in a much different way.
One night I was alone on the train with only one other rider. A young woman about 20 years old sat just across from me and struck up a conversation with me.
She was a young Muslim girl who had been raised in the States. Her parents had grown up overseas but she had spent her life here in Colorado. She asked me why I was there and I first told her I was attending a conference, but she pressed so I had to make that confession that I was a preacher and eventually she got out of me that I was Baptist.
It became clear to me that she had never really spoken to a Christian pastor who was Baptist. She was friendly and began to open up her life.
She worked for a radio station and was a college student. She dressed like the typical 20-year-old girl in Colorado. She loved to go to parties and was obsessed with hip hop music. She had met several musicians through her job and was impressed that I also was a fan of a few of the artists she mentioned.
She was an observant Muslim and told me while she liked parties she believed in God and was dedicated to her faith. She did not date without her dad’s approval and lamented how shallow many of her friends were regarding dating. It was clear she had strong morals and values. She talked about God and prayer.
My new-found friend laughed when she said folks asked her about ISIS and how she would reply, “What do I know. I’m from Colorado!”
We laughed and talked about our own worlds and she had plenty of questions for me. She was eager to learn more about my own world.
She also expressed her own frustrations wishing her religious community would open up more to women and give them a voice.
We were both Americans. We both were religious. We both loved our families. We both had dreams and hopes. And yet we were Muslim and Christian.
I’ve thought about that chance encounter over the past month. So much anxiety and fear from so many people and leaders has made me very uneasy. I could write about my own political views and religious views. I could talk about so much and I do have strong opinions.
Still I reflect upon that cool May night on a train with a wonderful young lady who was excited to see what her future could be.
That’s the face that comes to my mind when I hear the shrill voices and fearful words. There are real people who live in our communities who want to live their lives, marry, work, travel, laugh, love and live.
Muslim. Christian. Hindu. Jewish.
And the list goes on.
They also are people.
I hope we don’t forget that.