11/21/2010

Dignity of Difference

A few weeks ago I was invited to tell a story at the Dignity of Difference Interfaith event in Seattle and today we, The Bellingham Storyteller's Guild, fielded four Tellers there: Doug Banner, Kelvin Saxton, Cindy Minkler, and myself. I'm always so honored to perform with the Guild and it was great to have the opportunity to be with the Interfaith Community that gathers annually to celebrate Gratitude and spiritual diversity.

Held at St. Patrick's Church on Eastside of Lake Washington, the audience of about 200 witnessed a diverse group of performers, activists, and religious leaders from around the Puget Sound. Representatives from the Christian, Islamic, and Judaic traditions were present as well as leaders from the Bahai Faith, Buddhist, and Sanaatan Dharma communities. Among us in the Guild, we represented the communities of the Lakota-Sioux, Celtic, Hermetic, and Babaylan-inspired communities. All of us gathered to share our stories and expressions of faith with each other in a spirit of gratitude for the gifts we have been given and the hope that peoples of all communities would find peace in diversity. We also blessed and offered scarves and hats to the local homeless community along with prayers that they find the shelter and support they need in the coming cold months.

For my part, I offered my story "Langaw and the Sky King," explaining the T'boli garb I wore and the inspiration I have gained from Mendung Sabal, a T'boli babaylan, whose words I read in Grace Nono's wonderful book The Shared Voice. Since part of dignity is being confident in and being willing to share one's gifts and abilities, I felt that the story fit the theme. I ran a bit long (we were only given 3 minutes for our stories, and I think I went about 5) but I felt that the audience was both entertained and given a different perspective on those times when we feel too small to make a difference.

Each leader and Teller gifted us with their insights based on their traditions - a gospel reading about an encounter between Jesus and a tax collector was performed by a group of children using interpretive dance; another group of dancers moved to a song of praising the Mystery; religious leaders recited prayers and lead us in chant, while Guild members performed their stories about humility, community, and connection with the spirit. Woven through it all was a refrain by the parishes choir and musicians that requested that Mystery always dwell with us.

It was a beautiful afternoon spent with people who genuinely believed in hope and worked toward social justice, not just from their particular perspective but also embracing other perspectives. The event has been held annually for 24 years and I look forward to joining them again, if not on stage, at least in the audience, celebrating in thanksgiving the gift of dignity and diversity.