December is a month that encompasses the Christian and Jewish celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah. It also includes spiritually significant days for Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, and Zoroastrians. The Interfaith Calendar actually lists 14 different spiritual celebrations during the month of December. Kwanza is an important week-long African heritage cultural celebration that also occurs at the end of December. December is a very significant spiritual month in many different families and communities.
At our treatment Center, we find ourselves receiving treatment alongside people of all walks of life, ages, backgrounds, genders, races, and faiths. We are very different in so many ways, and yet as people who live with cancer, we quickly learn that we actually have much in common with those around us. We experience pain, we share suggestions of how to deal with treatments and life, and all our homes are impacted in this new walk with cancer. We frequently find new ‘family’ in the treatment setting.
It is helpful to remember our common human connections during this month when so many communities gather to celebrate and honor what is valuable to them. Friends, we are indeed so much more alike than different. While we celebrate our own beliefs and heritage, it is also good to reflect on and honor the values that bind us to each other. Our individual worlds (as well as our global world) can get rather scary at times. We may feel isolated and vulnerable. However, when we experience the kindness, the caring, and the sensitivity of friends, family, and medical staff, we feel less isolated and vulnerable. Why is this? Well, it is because we have a connection with something that is larger than just us. We connect with compassion in humanity.
The schema below shares how this compassion is understood in different religions around the world. It is an interfaith expression of what we know as ‘The Golden Rule”, the principle of treating others as you want to be treated.
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful
One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct… loving-kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive
So, as we gather in our communities and with our families during these significant days of December, no matter what our faith backgrounds may be, let us:
- Love one another, be thankful for one another and work for the common good;
- Treat others with the respect and compassion that we also need;
- and in all things err on the side that makes peace and justice.
We wish you and yours opportunities for compassionate connections during these December days.
Lucretia Hurley-Browning, MDiv, MS, is a guest writer whose recent background includes Chaplain of Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Director of Juniper Tree Counseling Center. She is a therapist and ordained United Methodist Minister. Currently, she is a writer by day, a reader by night, and is passionate about living life meaningfully with a good dose of fun.