Be Good and Kind and Drink A Beer

We had dinner with two friends last week. They are married and I work with the wife. We are both teachers. We have many things in common with this couple including a love of food, beer, England, travel, good music, and corgis. This is nothing to write a blog post about of course, except one thing keeps striking me about our friendship with them. Neither my husband nor I are religious (I’m actually more on the atheist end of the spectrum with a good dash of humanism on top but that’s for yet another post) and our friends are you could say, very religious. In fact, the husband is a pastor at one of the largest churches in

Eat food and be merry!

Eat food and be merry!

the area.

Again, nothing to write a whole blog post about. After all, I have many friends who believe in something and take part in organized religion. They are all good and kind to everyone, even me, the godless atheist. This is true of our pastor friends as well.

But what really strikes me about our two friends is how simple and honest their view of god and religion is. “We just want to love people,” my teacher friend said to me once in passing. And do you know what, faceless internet readers? They actually mean it. No judgement. No dogma. No shame over enjoying a beer or cursing or asking hard questions. You’re not a bad person if you’re gay. You still deserve to have people who love you.

I try really hard not to be an angry non-believer. Speaking only of my personal experiences, it can be difficult when you see a consistent pattern of people behaving poorly and using god and religion as an excuse. Because of my experiences, especially those in the last several years, I have so much more respect for our two friends. Though I am not a Christian, or at all religious, these two people are probably the best example of what a good Christian should be. That, I think is what life should be about and if you ascribe to a religion or a set of beliefs then, yes, that’s what your god should be about: Being good to people. Having dinner. Laughing. Loving people.

Ultimately, I think our friends and my husband and I  believe in the same fundamental ideals. We just approach these ideals from two different ends of a spectrum. Our friends ask the same questions and even see the same issues with religion and church that we do– and man is that refreshing.God and Beer. Two things that go pretty ok together if handled correctly.

I guess I keep thinking about this because neither my husband nor I talk much to anyone about what we don’t believe. It tends to start fistfights and make people uncomfortable. And, it’s deeply personal. In the right and respectful circumstances, I love talking about what people believe and why. But rarely is there a right and safe circumstance. I just keep thinking, how awesome is it that four people –two, for all intents and purposes, atheists, and a pastor and his wife– can sit down at dinner and have the same views of the big picture.

You don’t have to believe in each other’s religion. You don’t even have to have one. But if you do, be good and kind and eat bread and drink a beer. As just one atheist with a sprinkling or humanism, I will appreciate and respect you for it.

I feel kind of silly saying this because I already knew it, but we aren’t, all of us, so different after all. I guess it’s nice to be reminded that people can be good. And that, we can all agree on, is worth a raised glass of beer.

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Belief is a Five Foot Two Deoderant Free Child

SchoolI am not a religious person. Every now and again, I am faced with the question “what do you believe“? It is not a difficult question to answer, though it could be for lots and lots of tricky reasons that people like to get mad or sad about. But this is not a post about labels or lack of belief.

In fact, it is about belief.

I believe in people. Sometimes that’s hard to hold firm and to affirm. I believe and know that people are good.  Some days my faith in people is shaken, because I also believe and know that people can be bad. On those days, if you were to ask me what I believe in, I would say that I always, always, aways believe in kids. Always. That is one reason I teach, because above all else, I will always believe in my kids, your kids, the kids in the one room school-house, the kids who skip school, the hand raisers, the grade skippers, the ones who hate to read. I will always believe in them.

You probably think I am crazy. Kids? Middle schoolers? You rest your belief in something five foot two that hasn’t discovered deodorant yet? you ask. Yes. Yes, I do, and let me tell you why.

I believe in their potential to change the world in small, everyday ways. I believe that they will discover things that will change they way we live, save lives, encourage one another, change systems that are broken, and stand up for what a generation before them could not, tried to but failed to. I believe in them because the world hasn’t had the chance to try and turn them into “people” and they have yet to make choices that might weigh them down or might, someday, shake my faith in humanity.

I believe in them because when I teach, I see them thinking, creating, and wondering and they are so brilliant it makes me want to cry and hug them and shake them by their shoulders and tell them that the world is theirs, do good, work hard, you are my hopes and my dreams. And they are. They give me hope, especially when I start to lose my faith in the rest of the people.

They give me hope because they wave hello, they open doors for one another, they say thank you, or they don’t, but I catch the gratitude in some other way on some other day. They give me hope when they make me laugh, and even when they test my patience, when they talk too much or throw a standing ovation temper tantrum at 12 because I think, this is just the beginning, and you have so much more to give.

They give me hope when they are kind, as no one else but a child can be, when they put a hand on a friend’s shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, you look down today. Are you doing ok?”

How can you not believe in the potential of people when you see that a foot in front of you?

So, I believe in kids and because of them, I believe in people and all of the goodness that they can do. And some day they’ll figure out the deodorant thing, I know it.