As a long time youth minister one thing I’ve learned time and time again is that youth are great storytellers. We under estimate them when we tell ourselves that they have no stories to tell, or that they haven’t really ‘lived’ enough to have powerful things to say. As a group mentor during IYLI I had the privilege of hearing our participant’s stories, their living oral histories, and sharing a few of my own.
IYLI’s interfaith platform was a great opportunity to experience a colorful exchange of life and faith stories, as well as life-faith stories. In small groups facilitated by mentors of different faith traditions, our participants shared stories from the deep well of their life experiences, sacred beliefs, and personal dreams. In my small group was comprised of two Muslim women and one Sikh woman. After coming together, the four of us quickly realized that though we came from different faith traditions we were all children of immigrants, part of the first American-born generation. We all navigated the tricky waters of feeling and being ‘in-between’, not quite this or that, between the Motherland and New Homeland. Taking turns sharing and listening we realized our mutual deep admiration for our parents and their life-altering sacrifices. They turned their lives upside-down to give us the space to grow, dream, and succeed. Whether Muslim, Sihk, or Christian, they exemplified a life of faith for each of us in different but powerful ways. We treasured our beliefs and traditions, from making the decision to don the hijab to taking communion, not only because these are part of our religious beliefs but also because they are precious inheritances from the parents we love. They are traditions and beliefs that not only grounded us as Muslims, Sihks, and Christians, but as residents of the ‘in-between’ space. The space between what our parents left behind and the here and now. A space that often makes us feel fragile and misunderstood. In that moment of shared vulnerability, I felt kinship, a quickening sisterhood, with these women who dared to bring all of who they were and meet me and each other in the uncertainty of that in-between space.
Coming to the Interfaith ‘table’ is not only about bringing stories that tell others why we believe what we believe. Really being present at that table means bringing with us the people in our hearts; those we love, those close to us, and the stories that link us to them. We bring them with us, share their stories as well as our own, and meet one another in the in-between.