By contributing writer Mollie Griminger. Originally published in KidSpirit's God issue. In her essay for the Global Beat, Mollie reflected on whether people with different conceptions of God could live together peacefully, using her community as an example.
Since I moved to my quiet neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland, three years ago, it's become clear to me that having conceptions of God different from other people doesn't change the neighborly values of hospitality, community, and friendliness. Every family on my street is religiously unique in their own way. In my immediate neighborhood, there are practicing Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all with different conceptions of God. However, despite these differences, what we celebrate is our commonality.
Our neighbors of different religious persuasions all live peacefully together because we share the values of friendship and showing kindness to others. For example, during the snowstorms that buried the mid-Atlantic in 2010, a Muslim family spent hours helping out others by shoveling out the driveways of the elderly, and using their SUV to help take people to the hospital in the deep snow. And when the mother of that family was having surgery, we invited them over for dinner. The neighborhood also exhibits as much hospitality as they can to others, reminding all their guests that "my home is your home."
In addition, the differing religious faiths in our neighborhood aren't ignored. Instead, they're celebrated. Everyone on the block is always interested in learning about another household's customs. For example, each year, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot my family sets up the Sukkah (a specific type of large, rectangular structure in which we eat for the entirety of the holiday) and invites our closest families on the block to join us for a meal. None of them hesitate to experience this unique aspect of Jewish culture, not only because they're fascinated, but also because of the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with their neighbors.
Although an important identification of a person and their family, conceptions of God are eclipsed by the neighborly values of hospitality and openness in a community.
When she wrote this, Mollie Griminger was 13 years old.