by Sarah Carson

Lately I’ve been thinking about what my future might look like. Will I get married? Have children? Will I always be happy living the single life with my two dogs?

I’m blessed to have great people in my life to go to for advice.  For instance, a few years ago when I was wondering about getting married, my friend Nancy, a retired grandmother of six, said, “Sarah, you’re so young. You’ll have plenty of time to be married when you’re old.”

When I questioned if I might ever be ready to be a mother, my friend, Penny, a 40-something mother to 10- and 13 year-olds, was honest. “Parenting is a long, slow slog,” she said. “A beautiful, long, slow slog.”

And then there’s Tommika, one of my students from my former career as a college writing instructor. A single mother in her early 20s, she assured me, “You’re an amazing person. You’ll be an amazing mom.”

I consider myself fortunate to have friends of many ages, faith backgrounds and walks of life. It means there’s always a variety of perspectives, funny stories and memorable experiences to go around.

Whether I’m heading over to my 65-year-old friend Tim’s house to help him change his cell phone menu, or getting a primer in online dating from 23-year-old Adrienne, having a diverse community around me gives me a glimpse of the kind of kingdom Jesus imagined—one in which we all are loved and called to share our gifts.

Of course, building these kind of relationships isn’t always easy; many of us have experienced this firsthand in our congregations. Women of the ELCA’s director for intergenerational ministries, Elizabeth McBride explains: “It is ideal to include people who may see things differently than you or your current group, but there has to be a genuine connection and willingness to be receptive to changes that may come as a result.”

Susan K. Olson echoes this sentiment as she thinks back to a visit she and her students made to an outdoor worshipping community among the homeless: “…sometimes I know that I look at visitors and new members as people who might fill our church’s needs. … I have to remind myself that the congregation where I felt the most welcomed was the congregation I came to serve with my coolers and my strong students.”

But the ways in which our lives are enriched when we come together in this way is undeniable. When we see things through the eyes of others, the world opens up around us—and in some ways our faith becomes more simple. Karen Craigo experienced this while looking at picture of Jesus with her 3-year-old son. She writes:

“’I wonder what he’s thinking?’ I asked my son.

‘He just loves sheeps,’ he replied, and I could hear the shrug in his voice. It’s obvious to him that Jesus would love something so soft and innocent—just as Jesus loves him.”

I hope as you read this issue, you’ll also see those around you—young, old and in between—as Jesus’ beloved “sheeps.” May we all work to create a church and a world where we learn from each other, lean on each other and see the value in everyone as God sees the value in us.

Sarah Carson is the associate editor of Gather.