Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Interfaith Thanksgiving: Shauna Pierson '13

My name is Shauna Pierson, and I am one of the interfaith co-chairs at Tufts Hillel.  I am a strong believer in the power of common ground, in strengthening the ties that bind us together in order to achieve great things. That was the goal of our Interfaith Thanksgiving dinner, and when I looked around at a room filled with people of different backgrounds, religions, cultures, and creeds coming together to give thanks in multiple ways, I realized it was a success.
As Hillel’s Interfaith Committee co-chairs, Ben Jaye and I spent months preparing for Interfaith Thanksgiving. We joined up with most of the other religious organizations on campus, namely the Catholic Community at Tufts, the Hindu Students Council, the Baha’i Association, CAFÉ, the Protestant Student Fellowship, and the Muslim Students’ Association; it was a meaningful and productive experience to plan this interfaith event with the other leaders of religious groups on campus, and we made a ton of new contacts and friends.
We also decided to cosponsor the event with Tufts Chaplaincy, thereby adding an inclusive and interactive “Thanks-for-Giving” portion. Organized by Father O’Leary, the religious groups were each partnered with a service organization on campus—such as TUPD, dining services, or the athletic department. Seeing representatives from each respective religious group give thanks to their chosen behind-the-scenes workers at Tufts was an immensely powerful moment.
The most incredible part of the evening was the service portion. Like last year, we decided to devote our efforts to an organization called “Hugs and Hope”, which works toward bringing smiles and kind words to terminally ill children and their families. Each participant was given the name of a terminally ill child, some of their hobbies, their favorite colors, the names of their brothers and sisters, etc. We had a plethora of arts supplies, and within minutes everyone in the room had snatched up construction paper and colored pencils, and was totally absorbed in making the most beautiful and inspiring card for a child in need. I heard squeals of joy when people realized that their assigned kid loves the same comic books as they do, laughter as people recalled their own days of childhood arts and crafts projects, and sadness when we all realized that they are far too young and innocent to be suffering so much. But it was the feeling in the room—the unity, the collective desire to help—that was truly indescribable.
Looking back, I know that there were definitely some roadblocks along the way—and we realized that dedication and perseverance were key in producing a successful event that would bring so many diverse people in the same room at the same time. But this is what we did, and the spirit of that evening stayed with each of us as we went our separate ways to celebrate Thanksgiving with our own family, friends, and customs. Because no matter what, we are all thankful for this life that we have been given, and it is an amazing thing when we realize that we can do great things when we forget our differences.

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