By Aspyn Adams
Waiting on Thursday morning to fly to New York was possibly the most exciting, and anxiety-filled thing that I have done. When we got through the airport, and arrived exactly when they were boarding, my anxiety was quickly replaced by anticipation.
While Johnny, who was traveling with me to the UN, was going on about how excited he was to see Orthodox Jews, and their long beards, I was thinking of what the Interfaith Harmony Week celebration at the UN would look like. I thought a lot of it would be similar to the URI's Christmas special "May Peace Prevail on Earth," which lead me to thinking about my faith, my community, and how we as a whole fit into interfaith.
Identifying as a Kemetic pagan witch, and being open about it has not always been easy; however explaining my faith to people tends to take away many misconceptions, and fear. I have always believed that ignorance leads to fear, which leads to hate. To me, education is key to ending a lot of bias. With these thoughts in my mind, I eventually fell asleep looking out at clouds that looked like mashed potatoes in the sky.
When we finally arrived at Newark Airport in New Jersey, I got even more excited because we were closer to our destination. We took a shuttle into Manhattan, and before we got off I saw a wallet on the floor.
I asked Johnny, "Hey, is this yours?"
He said "No," while still staring at his phone completing emails, and phone calls. So, I handed the lost wallet to the driver and got off the bus. For the next 30 minutes, we got lost in New York City as our GPS bounced around. Eventually, Johnny realized that he lost his wallet and we figured out it had been his wallet that I handed to the bus driver! While in full panic mode, we called everyone from the airport to URI members and eventually, found out we could get the wallet back at one of the bus centers.
Throughout the whole process, so many New Yorkers reached out and gave us a hand. If there's one thing I've learned about New Yorkers, it's definitely how much they would go out of their way to help someone. It made me sit, and reflect whether I would do that myself. Every person I met that night I have a special admiration for.
When we got to the hotel, we meet Monica and Dave Willard. Monica is URI's representative to the United Nations and someone I see as a very important part of the interfaith movement. Dave, her husband took awesome pictures of nearly every event.
At the hotel, she gathered the trip participants to have a basic overview of World Interfaith Harmony Week and the celebrations to be held at the UN the next day. It was also a time to meet the other participants from Cooperation Circles around the country -- Jaya from Kashi and Shayda from SiVIC. Both Jaya and Shayda are incredible people, with even more incredible backstories. I have never met a Zoroastrian until I met Shayda, and the diversity in all of our faiths was quite amazing.
Due to our "wallet situation" earlier, Johnny and I hadn't eat that whole day, so we went to an Irish restaurant next to the hotel. There we ended up talking about personal relationships with what we interpret to be the Divine. It was interesting seeing Johnny's perspective, as a Muslim, compared to mine as a pagan. We got into a deeper conversation about dream interpretation, and divination, and ended up talking for hours. We have worked in the same interfaith organization for years, and I thought I knew almost everything about him, but I learned that you never truly stop learning about each other.
To read blog posts from other trip participants, click here.