Arriving late Thursday night to Charleston, SC, I grabbed a taxi to the hotel, quite tired and not in the mood for conversation. But that wasn’t the taxi driver’s agenda, so wanting to be polite to this very eager to please woman, I entered into the conversation.
The 20 minutes passed quickly and when we arrived at the hotel, Wendy asked me if I wanted to be picked up and taken back on Sunday. Sure, why not? So we exchanged cell phones and late Sunday morning, after my almost 3 day conference (Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children), Wendy met me on time and ready to roll.
She asked about my conference which I reported was great. And then she shared highlights of her weekend with me. She was frustrated because she missed her Gospel Choir Performance on Saturday night due to some communication problems. She was miffed that while waiting for the performance that never happened, she had to watch 2 hours of the Christmas parade and didn’t get to preform. I told her my daughter sang in the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choirs in Oakland, California. Their music is beautiful.
Her next question was, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” I told her, “No, I am Jewish and I don’t celebrate Christmas.”
“Is your daughter a Christian?”
“No, she sings in an interfaith choir, and she sings gospel and spiritual, enjoying the music and the fellowship but not really believing what she is singing. Actually, some of our Jewish songs and prayers have been arranged to the gospel style of music and I think the choir is singing those as well.”
She told me that she had heard that there are Jews who are orthodox and don’t believe Jesus is the messiah. And then she thought there were some who believe in Jesus as the messiah. She knows some Jews who celebrate Christmas. I told her that technically, Jews don’t believe in Jesus as the messiah, but there are the Jews for Jesus who might (and maybe others I am not aware of).
“So you don’t celebrate Christmas?”
“No, I celebrate Chanukah.”
“Well, I don’t celebrate Christmas either. And I heard about Chanukah from a preacher on TV, and I am going to look it up.”
I asked, “Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?” She said she was not. She told me that there are Christians, such as the Church of Christ and another sect (I asked twice but couldn’t understand and think she may have said “Christian” but I am not sure), who don’t. Then she filled me in about how study of the Word and living of the Word was the way she came to Jesus and the Christmas was too commercialized and had nothing to do with Jesus’ message.
I was pretty surprised. I consider myself religiously literate about a wide range of beliefs. I was a history of religion major in college, and my work with people from many backgrounds gives me additional exposure.
We arrived at the airport. The conversation was over. I had more questions for her but we had to part ways, which we did with smiles and a handshake.
So the lesson I learned is that we all have a lot to learn from others. Not all Christians celebrate Christmas, and some Christians believe that some Jews believe in Jesus as the messiah and do celebrate Christmas. This was one of the most enlightening cab rides I ever had. In the end, I was glad that Wendy was friendly, open and talkative. You never know who you are going to meet. You never know who is going to teach you more about the world, and even more about yourself.