Build for Unity

By Phil Washburn

Unity.  It is a simple word, but it is a word that brings with it so much hope…and also so many challenges.  As a person of faith, I long to see a world where respect for one another is the norm, not because they believe what I believe, but because of the very nature of who they are.  I long to see our community be a place where everyone feels welcomed and valued regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliations, or any other descriptor we use to categorize people.

As I read the news, look at social media, or watch television, I am constantly seeing messages of division.  It seems easier to seclude ourselves with those who think like us or act like us rather than engaging with those who are different.  In fact, science has shown that the brain is wired to make these sorts of categorical assumptions so it can process the world more quickly.  But we don’t have to live at such a base, default level of thinking.  In fact, I believe there is a better way.  I believe the community has the opportunity to change the message our world sees from one of division to a message of unity.

Unity is part of the foundation of the United States.  It is in our name.  It is all over our constitution.  But it seems like that foundation is in need of being rebuilt.  Nine months ago, a group of leaders with Habitat for Humanity came together to see what could be done to rebuild the American foundation of Unity.  Habitat for Humanity is a Christian Ecumenical housing ministry who encourages those of any faith and no faith to come together to provide safe and affordable housing to low income families.  They have worked with millions of people around the world building hundreds of thousands of homes.  From that gathering came the vision of Build for Unity.

Habitat for Humanity has a history of bringing people of different backgrounds together to build homes.  What has been found over the years is that as the walls of the house are built, the walls between people come down.  Corporate CEO’s work alongside minimum wage employees.  Muslims work alongside Christians. Republicans alongside Democrats.  But as each person straps on their nail apron, the differences don’t seem to matter all that much.  They come together united with a purpose to help a family in their community.

Unity between two people…or two different groups of people…requires having a common point of agreement, something that makes two into one.  All too often we try to find agreement in the areas where we are most different.  But that never really gets us anywhere.  So why don’t we try a different tactic.  Let’s start with the things that are easy for us to agree upon and work from there.  Everyone believes as some level that safe and decent housing is a basic human right.  Millions of people every year volunteer to make it a reality for someone else.  And those millions of people come away with friends they never expected and relationships they never imagined.  All because they found one thing they could agree upon and started to build from there.

As we enter into 2017 I don’t foresee the road to unity getting any easier in our country.  There will still be many things that will never be agreed upon.  There will be many challenges ahead.  But if each of us make the decision to begin Building Unity around us by working together on things we can agree on, we may all find the journey ahead to be a little more enjoyable.

Habitat for Humanity- MidOhio will be working on the Build for Unity house throughout this winter, with volunteers from Islamic mosques, Jewish congregations, and Catholic and Christian churches.  That is just one way we will be Building for Unity in 2017.  And as we build, I am sure we will see some new relationships formed…and maybe a little unity.  So, how will you Build for Unity in 2017?


bio-picPhil Washburn is the Faith Relations and Program Manager at Habitat for Humanity MidOhio.

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