A few years ago, I had an apartment in Boston that I share with one of my friends, and an ever shifting array of grad students. One morning when we were all home, we decided to make breakfast. One of the roommates, Burak, was a Muslim Turk (though not strictly observant) and this meal was his first experience with bacon. While he enjoyed trying the meat, one of the first things he said was how it reminded him of a traditional Turkish dish (that I'll not disrespect by butchering the name of). What he described was a spiced and cured cut of beef, so not all that far off, all things considered.
I've always been taken by the simple humanity of conversations like these, attempts to find commonality and connection, or to define difference. It is as if we, as individuals, are teaching someone else to speak our language (metaphorically, in this case, but sometimes very literally). So we start with what we know: simple things like the names of objects, or favorite meals, or "how do you say…" By connecting our experiences with someone from a different country, or culture, or viewpoint, we are inviting them into our lives.
This summer, as so many of us travel near and far, we will meet a host of people not like ourselves. As you do so, I encourage you to remember the Desert Fathers: early Christians who extended hospitality to travelers and strangers. They greeted everyone they met as an aspect of Christ, so that each new encounter brought a fresh chance to see the face of God, moving in the world. In doing so, they found that there were no real strangers, just brothers and sisters not yet met. May it be so for us as well.