Here is a discipline that requires a good deal of re-adjustment for many of us:  not being special, or set apart, but just being one person in a gathering, or a community.

We spend so much of our time trying to distinguish ourselves.  Often, we need to draw attention to ourselves, or to what we have created, in order to keep our business going, to market what we have to share, to let the bosses and shareholders know that we are doing our jobs.   It also becomes a habit – we want to stand out and be special.  Shine that spot light right on me, please!

Any of us can get stuck, sometimes.   We all know those who do workshops or write books, or preach sermons, and come to think of themselves as the ones with the answers.  We may even fall into this sort of pattern ourselves.  Friends initiate a conversation, and, instead of joining in, we give advice, or answer the question we have decided they are asking.

In the realm of inter-religious and inter-cultural relations, I can put myself forward as the one who brings people who are different together, rather than simply be another one of those people who is different, one who happens to want to connect with the others.

There are in fact many ways to maintain the distance between ourselves and the “others” — even when we are ostensibly working to bring groups or communities together!

Often what is needed in a situation of alientation or disconnection is not a better approach or a different program, but the practice of being one among the many.  This includes the discipline of coming along-side others, dropping (at least for this time) all the pretended and actual things that might divide us from them.  It involves the practice of listening, with its intricate blend of humility, active and respectful questioning, and safeguarding of boundaries.   And it calls for participating without the aim of always controlling, capturing or directing the conversation or activity.

When practising being one among many, it is easy to be run over by those who have other agendas.  But the integrity of this kind of presence is felt by others; it is a tangiblly different way of being with the others.   It cannot be faked–the fake version is readily detected.   And because it has integrity, being one among many can slowly change the equation, and make possible connections and events that would not otherwise have happened.  It is also so important for me  — to breathe and just be present.