September 11. A day that changed people’s lives. A day that changed our family’s life forever. Nine years ago, John and I were living in small town Bath, going to theology school, living a very comfortable life. Then, September 11 shook the world. We knew, fairly quickly, that our lives were going to have to change. We began to feel a strong calling to move to the city.
After September 11, we could not be satisfied with the status quo. We realized that we did not know any Muslims. In fact, we rarely interacted with anyone who was not exactly like us. For us, this became unacceptable. We wanted to get to know people from different cultures and felt called to immerse ourselves in urban life.
We followed this call and moved to the city of Rochester. I have to admit that we were scared, at first. Everything was very different in the city than in Bath. People dressed differently, talked differently, listened to different music. Everything was loud. We settled in. We went for walks and got to know our neighborhood. We met our neighbors. We liked our neighbors. We looked for jobs that brought us into contact with people from different cultures.
Sometimes when I look at where we are now, I am amazed that we actually did it. We felt called to a new life and we followed our call and actually are living the life we felt called to live. John works with interfaith and ecumenical groups, working toward understanding and peace. I work in multicultural affairs, bringing diversity programming to campus and helping students from diverse populations find their place at college.
We have embraced urban life. Our neighborhood offers the most wonderful diversity of cultures – rich and poor, old and young, recent immigrant and old, established families, people of different abilities. We hear music from all over the world. We hear languages from all over the world. We are blessed to learn about a variety of faiths, a variety of food, a variety of celebrations. Our world has expanded. We know that we still have a lot to learn, but we have made a beginning. We are no longer afraid of people we don’t understand.
I believe that our experience of embracing life in the city has helped my transition to low vision living. I know that I do not have to fear the unknown. I know that differently-abled people live in our neighborhood, leading perfectly happy, normal lives. I have friends from many different faith traditions and cultural backgrounds who offer me inspiration and wisdom from their perspectives. This helps me to break free from my own paradigms and understand the world in new ways.
September 11 was a day of terrible tragedy. We believe that God’s call for John and me is to build bridges and break down barriers, to play some small part in making sure that such a tragedy never happens again. Our path has brought us so many blessings – a new life, new understanding, new friends.