I went to the ice cream parlor the other night to get ice cream sundaes for my wife and myself. The store was crowded with other families seeking cold, sweet pleasure on a warm evening. I wish I had had a camera so that I could show you what I saw.
In front of me was a young man who looked to be in his early 20’s. His hair was light brown, cut short with a neatly trimmed beard. His white yarmulke was trimmed with a lavender border and fastened to his head by two silver hair clips. His girlfriend had long dark hair with slightly unruly curls tinted with dark red highlights. He was wearing a Rutgers T-Shirt so I struck up a conversation with him and discovered that his name was Donnie, and that both he and his girlfriend were seniors at Rutgers. We had a delightful conversation while we waited for our ice cream to be served.
Behind us at the corner table was a Muslim family of 6 with children ranging from middle school to college age. The father looked to be in his early 50’s. As he leaned back in his chair with his hands folded across his middle-aged belly, he looked every bit the part of a proud and contented papa.
The most striking about this family, however, was the mother. She wore a long, shamrock-green dress and a white, full-length jacket that had rows of cloth covered buttons down the front. Her hijab was made of the same fabric as the dress and jacket. The hijab accented her striking green eyes. She sat surrounded by her husband and children, and was clearly the bright, emotional center of her family.
At the table next to them sat three Latinas, spanning three generations—a grandmother in her early 50s, her daughter in her 30s and a granddaughter who looked to be 10 or 11. If the mother was the center of the Muslim family, the granddaughter was the center of the Latina family. She sat between the two older women who were pouring their lives into her, the youngest generation of their family.
And then there was me, a 65-year-old pastor running an errand of love for his wife.
As I looked around the store I saw a vision of what Martin Luther called, “the beloved community”—people from diverse backgrounds living together in respect and harmony. That evening we were brought together by three things—the hot summer weather, our love of ice cream, and our desire to share love with our families.
This is why I love Clifton, NJ the place where I currently live and serve. Here I find people of different backgrounds united in their pursuit of the American dream. Our ethnic, cultural and religious differences, along with our common shared respect for one another, are what make our country exceptional. I am proud to be a part of a community that evidences all that is good about America.
Hope to see you at the ice cream parlor!
Written June 27, 2019