A recent commentary on the friendship of two individuals caught in the crosshairs of their war-torn nations focused on the importance of welcoming the stranger.

Opening our hearts and minds to those we consider strangers is a central tenet of many religions, including Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and more. Spiritual leaders throughout the world have come together to discuss this very topic.

Welcoming the stranger lies at the heart of our very humanity because it inspires our compassion for everyone — the woman working in a factory sewing our clothes, the teen checking us out at the grocery, the man delivering items we ordered, those coming to our country seeking refuge or living thousands of miles away enduring the horrors of war and famine, hoping to one day be safe and healthy.

This month is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. It is also Disability Pride Month. It is easy to think of people we don’t know or who are different from us as strangers. It is far more gratifying to recognize that none of us are strangers in sharing the same wish for love, acceptance, happiness, and connection.

I am an idealist, for sure. My favorite song is Imagine by John Lennon. I believe that all people everywhere are capable of the vision expressed in those lyrics, regardless of how differently we may appear outwardly to one another. I also think that making that song a reality starts with each of us because, as Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Enjoy this beautiful July weather while out and about meeting some wonderful strangers.