Just passing through

Only one choice: love and welcome

Posted: February 3, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Since moving to Northwest Arkansas three and a half years ago, I have become keenly aware of how Walmart impacts the quality of life and the fabric of our community in so many wonderful ways. Sam Walton would be proud of the diversity in our community, the attractiveness of our environs to newcomers from all over the world, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and so many other aspects of our area that make it such a wonderful place to live. Although, I gather, he might wonder about all the fanfare.

I also have witnessed the series of "downsizing" measures Walmart has undertaken as part its corporate evolution -- the waves of people being let go, particularly in Bentonville. I know this is a very difficult process for everyone involved.

I have wondered about what it must be like to work in such a transient corporate environment. People come and go, get reassigned and change locations, and the work force is so fluid. Does this contribute to people being less connected to each other? In other words, on a communal level, because people come and go so much, does it result in people developing less interpersonal commitment? Are friendships less solid because there is a sense of impermanence?

In a sense, here in Northwest Arkansas, we have a large community of corporate migrants -- people who move here for work and then, for all kinds of reasons, move on. We are a growing, booming community of immigrants. Immigrants from all over the country and the world have made their way to this neck of the woods. I am an immigrant from Pennsylvania.

Someone once asked me, "Rabbi, what is the most important commandment in the Bible?" An interesting question with many possible answers. We might answer, the first commandment mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis, where God says, "Be fruitful and multiply." Being the first one masking it most important. Or, perhaps, it is the first of the Ten Commandments, "I am the Lord your God who led you out of the Land of Egypt to be your God" -- a statement asserting God's power in history, and being the first of the "Big 10," claiming most important status. Or perhaps the Golden Rule, first stated in Leviticus 19: "Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord."

I propose the most important commandment is the commandment is the one repeated more than any other. That one is, "Remember the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" -- which is repeated no less than 36 times. This commandment is about recognizing we are all immigrants in this life. We are all passing through.

We have a choice about how we treat newcomers to this community or our community as a country. We can be xenophobic -- frightened of outsiders -- or we can be graciously welcoming and embracing. We can focus on the need to build walls, or we can find ways to create paths that foster warmth and welcome. We can remember the heart of the stranger, or we can become cold-hearted nativists.

All God-loving, Bible-believing folks have only one choice: The way of love and welcome. It is up to the community of faith -- above all -- to stand together against the politics that promote hate and suspicion of outsiders.

Would that we might truly treat others, the way we would want to be treated. We are all strangers looking for acceptance. Remember the heart of the stranger. We don't need walls to create a safe community or country. Rather we need open and generous hearts. After all, aren't we are all immigrants in this place called Life?

NAN Religion on 02/03/2018