The secret ingredient for a better nation

Johnson City Press • May 9, 2018 at 8:30 AM

As the nation continues to roar over diversity in society, the interfaith and multinational efforts taking place on Hamilton Street in Johnson City stand out as an encouraging reminder that not everyone is filled with angst about “the other.”

On Friday, Staff Writer Zach Vance visited the 282nd construction effort coordinated by Holston Habitat for Humanity. In and of itself, that number may not seem much like a milestone.

Now, Zach’s a busy guy. He covers local and state government, business, health care and some national issues, which are enough to keep anyone’s calendar full. So there’s a good reason he devoted his time to the Habitat project.

No. 282 is special. For the first time, Holston Habitat has gathered an interfaith coalition of volunteers that includes representatives from the Muslim Community of Northeast Tennessee.

Site Supervisor Art Weekes told Zach that Muslim volunteers originating from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria have spent time working on the house alongside members of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and non-denominational Christian congregations.

The project should be encouraging to anyone who values the elements that keep the United States striving toward its ideals and the freedoms outlined in the Constitution. It should also send a clear message to those who hold onto stereotypes about a particular faith or ethnicity while begrudging others’ roles in society.

The fact that people of different faiths and so many national origins can work together to provide a better life for others should not be astounding. Many of these volunteers likely came to this country seeking a better life of their own, and their willingness to help others speaks volumes.

When the Harrison family moves into their new home this summer, there will be messages within those walls — metaphorically and literally. Many volunteers signed their names along with a message on the wooden studs that will eventually be covered.

One such message, above the window in the kitchen, says, “May love always be the secret ingredient in this kitchen,” signed by “Muna from Pakistan.”

If only love were the secret ingredient everywhere in this country.

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