by Diana Piedra
Last night our local Unitarian Church hosted an Interfaith Unity Potluck Dinner. I am a single, 36 year old, mother of two, and the kids and I don't go out to dinner very often so we were excited. We grabbed some kale salad and our most hopeful hearts and drove to church.
Upon entering the very busy commons area I knew we were all in for a treat. Long tables were adorned with brightly colored shimmery table cloths. There were no paper plates or plastic silverware in sight, only real dishes and silverware for this sacred night. Each person came with a dish and placed it on the buffet style set up in the front of the room. The smells and colors created an ambiance and feeling of home within the hall. It felt like a very special version of Thanksgiving.
Strangers greeted each other warmly and hugs were flowing freely. My mother had invited us to this event as she attends this church weekly. The kids and I found mom and the four of us headed to grab a spot at the far table with a red table cloth. Soon enough we found ourselves surrounded by people we knew and we engaged in polite conversation as we waited for the start of the buffet line.
Reverend Tom Capo's voice sounded clear over the speaker system welcoming the group and asking us to find people to sit by who we didn't know. We rearranged ourselves and a beautiful Muslim woman wearing a purple hijab made her way to the chair next to me. Rev. Tom asked that prepare in our own unique way for a blessing of the food. He then read a beautiful prayer and we made our way to the dinner line.
To say the food was excellent is an understatement. Each dish was distinct and and so many of them I had never tried. There was everything from chicken curry to Mexican rice and eggplant Parmesan.
I learned about three religions during the dinner Judaism, Siqquism, and Islam. I met truly incredible people. The woman next to me was a Muslim, a wife, and a mother of 3 grown children. Her religion requires her to be a community contributor and help her neighbors (of any religion) if they are in need. She recently spent an entire day (morning to night) at her neighbors house who has four young children doing her piles of laundry and washing her dishes. She had noticed the new mom was crying outside and was feeling overwhelmed, so she showed up one day to show her loving support and genuine empathy. I learned that Sikhism originated in Punjab, India. The religious philosophy was a response to the caste system in India (circa 1400) because they wanted equality and believed that one God resides in all living things including plants and animals. The Sikh men wear and turban and grow their hair to show devotion to their beliefs. The Jewish gentleman spoke of his slow progression towards being an agnostic. He words were eloquent and heartfelt.
The Unity Dinner was a reminder that we all can connect with one another on so many things. Family, love, a desire for acceptance and prayer are just some of the universal concepts being discussed at our table. I left the hall holding hands with my two children and knowing that this gift would live on in all of our hearts. I would recommend having an Interfaith Unity Dinner in your area.