In the past few years we have learned a great deal about what divides us. Our politics is bitter and partisan. Our churches, mosques and synagogues are split-sometimes lethally-over issues of doctrine, tradition, and practice. Even our popular culture caters to a fragmented, disunited world.
This is not all bad. We are diverse, and our diversity can strengthen us and make us richer and more interesting. But too often our differences become divisions. We fear the stranger. We shun the neighbor who does not follow our path. We find it hard to imagine that we have anything in common with either.
Hatred and anger-harsh words, border fences, bombings-make for exciting news. But they are not the whole story. The great moral teachers and prophets, from Jesus and Hillel to Mohammed, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, have long shown us a better way. Above all, they have taught us to love our neighbors, whoever they are; to be compassionate toward all, and to strive for a world built on justice and humane values.
It is a vision that dares us to rethink everything. But it is not a false hope. Every day, in large ways and small, people practice compassion. Acting separately, they may seem to change little. But taken together, they counter hatred and fear in surprising and effective ways. At the end of the year, let us celebrate them and look beyond the headlines toward a better world.