Drew Page is the Digital Media Editor for the CT, MA, and RI Conferences, UCC, and a fencing coach, competitor, and referee.
"Every day I walk down the street or hop on the subway, I am reminded that I am a citizen of a very big, incredibly diverse world."
~ Shaun King, American Writer and Justice Activist
Reflection: Seeing The Other
In 1904, the New York City Subway system opened the first underground line, a 9-mile underground train running from City Hall in Manhattan to 145th Street in Harlem. Today there are over 32 miles of subway lines. The process of creating those lines required several techniques, including tearing up roads to dig out the tunnels beneath, and using "tunneling tubes" or cast-iron pipes for digging out the deeper passages.
It is estimated that most of the 7700 workers who built the original subway system were immigrants.
Today, the word immigrant immediately raises tension in a room. Some get angry, thinking immigrants are "foreigners" trying to come and illegally take what isn't theirs. Others get heated about the treatment of those seeking to improve their lives by traveling to safer places where they and their families have opportunities to survive and make new lives together. The word "immigrant" further divides us as a nation, making "others" a more explicit notion that drifts further and further from ever transforming into "us."
This past Sunday, four Colombian fencers, with family members and a coach, came to a tournament at the fencing club that I run in Willimantic. They spoke nearly no English (one of their family members translated some of the conversations I had with them when my Spanish was insufficient to convey anything necessary). The fencers and family members cheered loudly for their teammates when they scored points, and shouted equally loudly during tense times in their competitions. Some of the fencers themselves screamed when they scored particular hard-fought points. They wore "COL" on their jackets instead of "USA."
A few of the local fencers made comments about their behavior.
It struck me as odd. I've seen the same behavior at nearly every competition I've been to, either as a fencer, a coach, or a referee. Some fencers shout. Some fencers celebrate. Some spectators and coaches can be quite animated when watching competitions. And fencing tournaments tend to exhibit a remarkable variety of spoken (and shouted) languages.
I saw four competitive athletes from a different country training far from home to improve their skills. In speaking with them, I learned thay they were in the United States for a month to train, with the hopes of being selected for their national team when they return. They were competitive, aggressive, and talented. They were patient with my poor Spanish and pleasant to talk with. They knew the game and the rules and played by them. And they brought something new to our club, a level of skill and a sense of competitive drive that our fencers needed to see (one of these fencers was a former Olympian). Three of the four won medals, including first and second place in the women's competition and second in the men's competition.
It was a rare opportunity for us to host these four fencers. They elevated our tournament in a positive way. But that was not what some people saw because they wore "COL" on their jackets.
Creator of all people, help us open our minds so that we will someday see everyone around us as equal in your eyes and recognize how the "other" helps us grow and learn.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at email@example.com.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Chile where several have died in recent protests against recent government decisions
- For the people affected by severe weather and tornadoes near Dallas Texas this weekend
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the cool evenings that change the leaves in New England
- For the First Congregational Church South Windsor as they celebrate their 325th Anniversary on October 26
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Congregational Church of Burlington
First Congregational Church of Canterbury, UCC
The First Congregational Church, Canton Center
Central Village Congregational Church
First Congregational Church of Cheshire, UCC
This Week in History:
October 27, 1904 (115 years ago) The New York Subway opened. The first line of the system was just over 9 miles long and passed through 28 stations, winding from lower Manhattan to Harlem. The first riders paid a nickel each to ride under Manhattan (equivalent to approximately $1.50 today). Today, the system covers 32 miles with 26 lines and 468 stations.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Drew Page is a member of the Conference's Communications Team. He writes and edits news, blogs, and devotionals, produces video, and spends a week each summer deaning at Silver Lake Conference Center with his wife, Debby.