I realized that my service had an interfaith nature when I remembered of the conversations I had while serving. When I would chat with the other volunteers as we were piling blankets, pillows, and towels on the linen cart, or cutting flowers to put into vases and place on tables, I would realize just how different we all were. We came from various backgrounds, and we were quite a diverse group, whether that was ethnically, geographically, politically, culturally, linguistically, or religiously. All of these differences informed our individual belief systems, but they did not prevent us from forming relationships with one another or working together to serve others.
The people that I served with all came together to do something for others because we all believed that it was important to work towards a more socially just world. This is one value that we all shared and it informed the way that we lived our lives. Furthermore, while doing service with these people, not only was I able to engage with them about the similarities between our belief systems and way of looking at the world, but also the differences. I learned as much from the other people with whom I volunteered as I learned from the people I served.
Nevertheless, I have always struggled to find a definition of interfaith that captured the word’s entire meaning to me. However, while attending the Interfaith Leadership Institute, I found a definition that comes close. During that “Tackling Challenging Conversations” workshop, my friend David was role-playing a situation when he shared that to him, interfaith cooperation is a group of people with different belief systems uniting around common values, including service.
That definition had many different components, and each one spoke to a different part of the interfaith experiences that I have had throughout my own life. I know that anyone who hears this definition will be left with a more nuanced understanding of interfaith cooperation, and maybe they will even realize, like I did, that they have been engaging in interfaith cooperation and service throughout their entire lives.