As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many of us are wondering how best to honor the many victims of that tragedy and its aftermath.
Here in Cincinnati, my wife Marty's answer is inviting some of our friends to join us on a walk with some Muslim and Jewish families she invited by simply calling their congregations. She got the idea from my friends and me at Abraham's Path, who are sponsoring www.911walks.org to help people find or pull together their own 9/11 Walks all over the USA and around the world. The goal of these walks is simple: to help people honor all the victims of 9/11 by walking and talking kindly with neighbors and strangers, in celebration of our common humanity and in defiance of fear, misunderstanding, and hatred.
Think about it: Wouldn't it be great if 9/11 became a day for Christians, Muslims, Jewish people, and everyone else to step over boundaries and walk kindly with "the other", the way Martin Luther King Day has become a day for community service?
Our original idea was to organize one big cross-boundary walk in New York City, but officials there encouraged smaller walks instead. Now the idea is for lots of people -- people like my wife and you -- to organize 9/11 Walks in their own neighborhoods. Even as I write this, individuals and small groups from churches, mosques, synagogues, and everyday families are inviting each other to meet up on Sunday afternoon.
On the 9/11 Walks website you can easily find a walk or learn how to organize one of your own. All it takes is a few minutes, a few phone calls, and a little bit of hope and courage.
Even if you think it is too late to invite others, just take a walk that day in solidarity with the rest of us. Step outside your door, greet a stranger or two you meet along the way, and then, when you come home, visit the 9/11 Walks Facebook page to enjoy walk stories and pictures from around the world ... and maybe post a word of encouragement. That way you'll be "in" on the ground floor of something I hope becomes an annual tradition of cross-boundary connection.
As we remember the tragedy of 9/11, most of us also remember the wonderful ways neighbors and strangers reached out and connected with one another. I'm looking forward to rekindling some of that hospitality and kindness on our walk, and I invite you to do the same.
Bart Campolo is a veteran urban minister and activist who speaks, writes, and blogs about grace, faith, loving relationships, and social justice. Bart is the leader of The Walnut Hills Fellowship in inner-city Cincinnati. He is also founder of Mission Year, which recruits committed young adults to live and work among the poor in inner-city neighborhoods across the U.S., and executive director of EAPE, which develops and supports innovative, cost-effective mission projects around the world. He serves as the outreach coordinator at Abraham's Path.