by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Watching the parade of nations during the opening ceremony of the Olympics reminded me just how many different countries and cultures make up this world of ours. Oh I know — not every country in the world is participating in the Olympics. But I was so surprised by how many countries are participating — many of which I had never heard of. As I watched the athletes enter the stadium, I began to feel that the slogan of this year’s Olympics — “One world, one dream” — was a fitting one. Despite the differences that I was certain existed in political and social philosophies, I saw unity of purpose in the eyes of each and every athlete.

And then I wondered — “Could it be there is much to be learned from each other?”

Of course even if we answer yes to this question, our political and social differences may be a gulf that seems impossible to bridge. And this gulf threatens to keep us from learning from each other, from appreciating each other, from understanding each other, and from living in peace with one another.

But just because there is an Olympic-size quest before us, does this mean we never try or that we ever stop trying to bridge the gaps? No doubt any gold medalist would concur that if they had given up or stopped trying, they would not be wearing the gold medal around their neck. And I suspect every gold medalist would also affirm that their success was built on a long record of failures. And yet every failure was most assuredly replaced by progress and still more progress until their golden success was achieved.

This gives me hope. And I admit I’ve not been feeling a whole lot of hope lately, especially for a permanent and peaceful resolution in the war against terrorism. It is difficult to imagine mutual respect, acceptance or even tolerance among the many cultures of our world.

The imagery of those perfect circles we saw formed during the opening ceremony perhaps gives us some helpful insight on how we can begin to learn how to live more harmoniously with one another. The perfection of those ever-moving circles was accomplished with awareness by each participant of their neighbor. Somehow this example was telling for me as I sat there thinking I don’t know my neighbors.

I don’t know anything about my neighbors who live only a block from me much less neighbors who live continents and oceans away. Yet unity seems to begin with an awareness of the neighbor to your left and to your right. But no doubt for those performers to be able to maintain the kind of constant awareness that formed those perfect circles required vigilance, hard work, and practice and was no easy feat. This says to me I need to work harder at knowing my neighbors and understanding those that have very different viewpoints from me.

Each performer who helped form those perfect circles was needed and important. In fact, a perfect circle would have been impossible if one was out of step or if one was missing. This reminds me of where the apostle Paul speaks about diversity of gifts and the many members of the body in one of his letters to the Corinthians. (I Corinthians, Chapter 12)

He makes an analogy speaking of the ear, the eye, the foot and the hand. He says things like, “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” And “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”

His words affirm that although we are each very different from one another, we are each necessary to the whole of humanity. God’s creation was formed in perfect balance — each with its own unique purpose. So somehow and in some way it must be possible for the children God created to live peacefully and harmoniously on this circle we call Earth.

So although the quest for peace on earth may seem to be Olympic-size, there is divine reason to hope. We are one world with one Creator. A good beginning would be to believe this truth and accept that all of God’s children have a right to exist and to exist harmoniously.