November 2015. Paris Bombing by Islamist militants. The beginning of hatred and false rhetoric against Muslims. One year later and the presidential election is finished. The amount of hatred and falsehoods have only increased. Although I couldn’t have foretold the future, I am fortunate to be a person of action and reacted with an email one year ago. The email was sent to a local mosque and a few days later I was meeting the mosque’s youth director for coffee, discussing opportunities to partner with other women to form an interfaith group. At the same time a third woman from the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community reached out and we soon had interest from many different faith communities. We branded ourselves as Tapestry – women promoting religious understanding and acceptance through dialogue between women and youth of many faiths while providing service to the community. Thru this group I have formed new friendships and learned the daily practices of various religions. We have been hosted by a mosque, compared eastern and western Christian traditions, heard from teen immigrants, studied genealogy and will be visiting a Jewish temple in January. Tapestry has coordinated an interfaith youth food drive, packed refugee health kits, donated used clothes to an inner city food shelf and educational toys to a refugee agency.
This week was our first meeting since the election and I was concerned about attendance. Would the members of Tapestry feel that the divide in America was too great and that the friendships that had been formed could not be sustained? I had tears in my eyes when 40 women showed up for a planned service project at Feed My Starving Children. We competed with the youth from a local National Honor Society to pack meals for Cuba. Feed My Starving Children is a Christian organization and many of our non-Christian women had neither heard of it or were familiar with the concept. Packaging meals interspersed with conversation made 2 hours go by quickly. An added benefit was the example that we communicated to the youth – adults of many faiths and beliefs working together for the benefit of others.
Our email list has swelled to almost 150 women. Volunteers at local non-profits have increased dramatically since the election. While acts of division and hatred have increased, so have acts of kindness and inclusion. Tapestry has been my beacon of hope in the swirl of post-election fear and division.