letters (December 30, 2015)

Do we fit ?Small town, big heart??

When fellow Hillsboro High graduate Anna Woelk and I decided to attend a ?peaceful demonstration of support? at the Islamic Center of Kansas on Dec. 12, neither of us thought it would turn into a Hillsboro High School reunion.

And yet, when we heard a voice say, ?Muslim prayers will start in five minutes. Please take your shoes off before entering,? we agreed that the voice sounded vaguely familiar.

Imagine our surprise when we realized the voice belonged to Rachel (Mathis) Wathen. It turns out Rachel, a fellow Hillsboro Trojan, was the primary organizer of this peaceful demonstration that brought these Mennonites, Muslims and Unitarian Universalists together.

As the three of us stood along a busy street holding signs of support for our Muslim neighbors, such as ?Think different, love alike,? a part of me wanted to run inside and make a new poster for the three of us to hold. It would have read, ?Small town, big hearts.?

Small towns, of course, aren?t always known for their religious, ethnic diversity and tolerance. When I interviewed for my first church job in Chicago, the search committee voiced concern about ?my small-town background.? They had a small-town caricature in mind?a person who was closed-minded, intolerant, ignorant and na?ve.

When I look at people like Rachel and Anna, I don?t see that caricature. Rachel is the director of religious education for children and adults at Shawnee Mission Uni?tarian Universalist Church in Olathe, and Anna is a refugee case manager and health promotion coordinator at Jewish Vocational Service in Kansas City, an organization that helps refugees and immigrants build new lives in this country. I doubt people they work with look at them and see that small-town caricature.

As Rachel said in an interview Dec. 12, ?We?re here because we want to counteract some of the hateful rhetoric that is going on in the news.?

I can only hope that hateful rhetoric is being challenged in the streets, homes, churches, schools, gymnasiums, locker rooms and restaurants in my beloved hometown of Hillsboro and that the next generation is being encouraged to grow big hearts as they learn to think different and yet love alike.

Ruth Harder, pastor,

Rainbow Mennonite Church

Kansas City

Appreciation for local donors

Thank-you to all who participated in the American Red Cross blood drive at the Parkview Church Dec. 21. We had a good turnout, considering the busy time this close to Christmas. We had 46 donors and many others who helped in other ways.

The next drive will be in February at Hillsboro High School. For more information, or to make an appointment, go to redcross?blood.org or call 1-800-733-2767.

Gladys Funk

Shirley Kasper

Hillsboro co-chairs