In Uncommon Gratitude, Joan Chittister writes on how “alleluia” can arise out of differences.  This is, of course, a tall order.  When someone does not act as anticipated, we say he or she is “different.”  If we try something new and, when asked to rate the experience, we may say it was “different.”  In these contexts, “different” is rarely just an observation.  Often, “different” has a judgmental connotation to it, or it is used out of politeness to shroud the potentially hurtful judgment.  (To this day, I recall the tone of voice an elementary school teacher had when she commented that my art project was “different.”  We’ve all heard the tone, and I will confess to using it.

On “difference” Chittister writes:

“We learn sameness very early in life and find it hard to stray too far from its boundaries, however old we get, however much we think we’ve moved away from such thinking as time goes on.  Sameness becomes a kind of security blanket that wraps us up in the warm feeling of being acceptable to the groups with which we identify and whose approval we seek.  If we don’t stand out, we can’t be criticized. We are safe because we are just like everybody else….  It is an effective technique, a kind of chameleon approach to life, but it is neither psychologically mature nor spiritually healthy. Somewhere along the line we must become who we are meant to be as individuals. We are persons put on earth to contribute to it as well as take from it…. Most of all, we must allow others to do the same, as much for our sake as for theirs…. It is in our respect for the differences of others that we grow.”

That bears repeating – “It is in our respect for the differences of others that we grow.”  This of course, telegraphs her “punchline:”

“But that is the glorious burden of real Christianity: to follow the one who talked to Samaritan women and Roman soldiers, all the time allowing them to be who they were. Clearly, differences were not made to be homogenized; differences were made to be respected, to be honored, to be cherished. Alleluia.”

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