Faith and labor leaders sought to foster a sense of community and shared values amid uncertainty and division over the unsettled presidential election during an online discussion hosted by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization Thursday night.
Speakers addressing more than 200 participants in the hour-long event sought to begin healing some of the division even as they acknowledged that the increasingly deep political schism often seems deeply personal territory.
Nicholas Hayes-Mota, a facilitator for the Interfaith Organization said his “heart is hanging still” on a recent conversation with a friend who was struggling to find common ground with relatives who disagree politically.
“I think our political climate hasn’t just broken our political relationships, it’s broken our family relationships,” said Hayes-Mota, a member of St. Cecelia Parish in Back Bay. “It’s broken our friendships. It’s broken our relationships with the people we go to church with. As a Catholic, I can certainly speak to that. ... It’s not just that we disagree, it’s that we live in different worlds.”
Dr. Sadaf Hussain, a member of the Prophetic Living Institute, spoke of the need for empathy. She recalled treating a male patient when she was a dermatology resident at a Veterans Administration hospital in Delaware.
The man, who was over age 70, was sheepish about removing his shoes and socks. At first she thought he was self-conscious about the condition of his feet. She quickly realized he was ashamed of a large hole in his right sock.
So she took off her own shoe and showed him that she had a bigger hole in her own right sock.
"He started to laugh and said, ‘Doc, you sure know how to make someone feel good,’ " she said. “Now, any one of us, looking in that room, could have seen how different we were in pretty much every aspect. But in that moment, we connected in our humanity.”
Nahma Nadich, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, recalled watching John F. Kennedy debate Richard Nixon with her parents in 1960.
“My parents knew that leadership matters, that good government makes for better lives for us, and that officials who are elected, who are accountable to the people who elect them, safeguard our values and protect our country,” she said.
Her grandparents came to the United States fleeing religious persecution and made a good life for themselves and for Nadich’s parents, she said.
“So I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot lately, and wonder if they were here what they would think of this moment in our country, and what they would make of our leaders and our government,” Nadich said. “And that fills my heart with sadness and worry. I am so sad about the degradation of our civil discourse, about the fraying of our democracy.”
But seeing so many young people vote in this year’s election gave her hope, she said. Her parents would be hopeful, too, because “they lived through some unimaginably dark times," she said.
Carrington Moore, an associate pastor at Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain, said it’s important during stressful times to make space for rest and recovery.
“We are called to rest, to take a radical, beautiful, beloved, bountiful, and robust nap,” Moore said. "Sometimes we have to go and grab our boo-thing, our sugar pie-honey bunch, our sweet love, and take a nap.
“So before you go and lead another march, before you go and do another get-out-the-vote, before you go lead another protest, we are called by our creator God, in the wonderful Hebrew scriptures in the Book of Genesis, to rest,” he said. “It is your divine calling. It is your divine responsibility. It is your divine right to rest.”