I am not sure if I like being within and surrounded by an Aspen grove more or being within and surrounded by diverse people in an urban setting. The dense and populated life of both terrains gives me energy. Living at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, I have access to trees. Life-giving trees that seem to be the low-barring posts that hold our earth together. I know this is not true, it just feels that way so I trust what they are doing and what they provide for me, oxygen. Holy and sacred these trees. God's trees.
This week I spent time in Denver. Heavily dense and populated life of all kinds. Oh, how the kindom of God is never more transparent than in the midst of city chaos and creativity. The intersections of culture, lifestyles, ethnicity: economic, political and religious backgrounds. All of this emitting a perfectly in sinc cycle of life. So many colors, so many tastes, so much energy. They are going some place, some place important. The world is moving and I am moving with them. I could breath this week, there was oxygen. Holy and sacred these people. God's people.
I grew up in an urban or some might say growing suburban setting outside a large metro area, so lets just say urban. Since then I have crept west across the country appreciating the sub cultures of our country. These cultures more rural than urban, mostly a conformed group of people, mostly. Not saying they were not wonderful and not saying it lacked diversity, just mostly. I have spent motherhood trying to find times and places were my three could experience the oxygen of the city. I wanted them to know the biggness of the tank (so they new that they could breath when they needed to), filled with people from all over the world. How can one know Spirit without experiencing all of what God offers? They would only know one part of God if they were to only experience one part of God's people.
Our "ticky-tacky" neighborhood provides many things, but it does not provide the breadth of diversity one needs to sometimes breathe. My kids needed oxygen too. (as a side note, our neighborhood has been formative and grounding in many other ways.)
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and yellow one
And They're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same. Pete Seeger
Each day we spent in Denver, my kids spent learning about one of the five world relgions. It was risky to drop my pre-teen and teenage kids at unknown places of worship each day for seven hours with people they did know. The interfaith camp consisted of twenty campers ranging from sixth to ninth grade, give or take. The campers were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic and everything in between. The people leading the camp were leaders and ministers and rabbis from each of these communities. Each space embodied safety- or maybe it was faith, holy groundings, Light? My kids were comfortable. They could breathe.
Because now the story was not about bored teenagers on hot summer days in a "ticky tacky" neighborhood. These narratives were stories as old as humanity. Oral traditions that have lasted centuries. These stories give life meaning rather than despair.
The stories were not about who said what on media- stories only lasting hours, days and if your lucky weeks.
But stories that brought people back to life,
lead them out of the wilderness by way of a star,
performed miracles that we cannot explain
and healed the broken hearts
stories that encourage prayer- five times a day.
The light is within and around you, said another story.
I know that you can tell a story any place about anyone. But in a city you don't have to tell it, you can see it and feel it and experience it. The stories are accessible and visible and raw. Like the trees in a forest- the oxygen is just emitted. You don't have to ask, it's just given freely.
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. Genesis 1:3
Interfaith Youth Camp of Metro Denver was a collaboration of the following faith communities:
Colorado Muslim Society
Kirk of Bonnie Brae UCC
Tri State Denver Buddhist Temple
Sixth Ave UCC