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There’s no place like home (I think)

By Charlotte Cerminaro 
web posted December 19, 2016

There’s no place like home…..I think. I’ve come to this conclusion after a couple of months of heavy travel, the proverbial “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. What was supposed to be a summer and fall of relative rest after a couple of difficult years, turned into a whirlwind of driving, last-minute concerts, appointments, “vacations”, epic bike rides and home repairs. We met quite a lot of people, domestic and foreign, and found that, in general, people we call foreign are just as friendly, if not more so, than our neighbors. Despite language barriers (which became less of an issue after only a couple of days), we saw people struggling with many of the same issues we have here.

The strange part of this is that I have traveled to many foreign countries. I once spent 3 weeks in Germany and Austria on tour, with an orchestra. On several occasions we got lost, took the wrong Autobahn exit, and had to converse and interact with people who spoke very little English. Our German skills were poor, but somehow we always got where we needed to go, made it to the concert on time. Without exception, people in foreign countries never seem to mind being peppered with questions from curious travelers, even if those travelers are “auslanders”. I myself have been stopped many times by foreign tourists on American streets, having to give directions or take photographs. Reminding myself that I was in their position helps me sympathize with their plight.

In both the old and new testaments, we are commanded by God Himself to treat foreigners with kindness and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When a lawyer was questioning Jesus on this subject, asking, “Who are my neighbors?”, it was then that Jesus told the parable of “the good Samaritan”. At that time, Samaritans were considered second-class, not even citizens. They were not Israelites, they were strangers in a strange land, and many pharisees forbade anyone from even speaking to them. But in the parable, when a man was robbed, beaten and left for dead, his own countrymen crossed to the other side of the road so they could pass by without looking or helping. It was a Samaritan, walking down that road, who stopped and helped the man. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds and took him to a nearby lodge, paying for his room, food and convalescence. As Jesus finished this parable he asked the lawyer, “Who acted like a neighbor, then, the man’s brethren or the Samaritan?” And of course this is the derivation of our phrase, “good Samaritan”.

As I ponder our current state of affairs, my thoughts keep returning to the parable, and also to our travels. The immediate bond formed between people who don’t speak the same language and yet somehow manage to communicate things that words cannot express, is a testimony to our humanity. These life experiences add up, forming our earliest awareness of a conscience and sense of moral duty. The problem is, these character traits seem to be going extinct and are being replaced by politically correct, shallow and meaningless behavior. Does this mean that a large portion of the population now has never learned how to interact with or understand anyone else? That they have no frame of reference beyond their own feelings and limited experiences? Over the last few weeks, as I have witnessed Trump protesters continue to disrupt life and block Seattle streets, this question is being answered in no uncertain terms. Mobs of angry, spoiled people, upset by the election results, believe that because they are unhappy, everyone else must suffer their wrath. For them, life cannot go on. They have absolutely no regard for the vast number of people who have been very unhappy with the election results for the past eight years. People who, nevertheless, realize they must continue working, functioning, raising their families.

This disparity in thought and behavior illustrates the problem almost too perfectly. Just who is our neighbor? How can we resolve a problem with our neighbor when our neighbor sees things only one way, and cannot be persuaded by any logic or example? Are these really our neighbors, or are they more like the countrymen in the parable who crossed the road to avoid seeing someone else’s problem? Since I’m really starting to believe it’s the latter, this changes the fundamental way I view our country and our fellow citizens. I feel increasingly like a stranger in a strange land--though born in the United States and a citizen of this country, I am more aware than ever that my citizenship is not ultimately of this world, but the world to come. ESR

Charlotte B. Cerminaro is a Juilliard-trained classical musician who, in addition to being a studio and orchestral musician, enjoys writing. © 2016






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