Are you familiar with NaNoWriMo? It’s a virtual challenge group that encourages and supports people who want to write a 50,000-word novel over the course of the month of November. Last year, over 400,000 people around the world participated. It’s mindboggling!

The reason NaNoWriMo came to mind this week is my continued pondering of our need to respect those who are different from us. In this increasingly polarized country and world, we all need to rediscover our common humanity—and soon.

One way to do this is to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes—or sandals, moccasins, boots, whatever. There’s actually a Christian tradition for doing just that. It’s built into Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. While not being the primary focus of the Exercises, the process is very useful for understanding the perspective of someone different from ourselves.

The idea is very simple, and at the root of what I am doing with my Jesus through the Eyes of Others retreats. It is to take a story from scripture and place yourself in the position of one of the characters from the story. From that position, living into the story, you get a different perspective on the events, Jesus, and your faith.

Any of us can do that at any time. We can also do it with current events (think of the California fires), or with stories we hear or read regarding the disenfranchised and oppressed in our own communities. We can put ourselves in their story, and gain a richer, fuller—and often more challenging—perspective on what it is to be part of the one human family. I encourage you to do this.

I also encourage you to join me this Advent for my initial online retreat on The Incarnation of Jesus through the Eyes of Others. I make the process easy by telling the stories with audio podcast-style storytelling meditations and providing reflection questions for you to ponder. The entire retreat is available to you at any time, so you can fit it into the busy holiday season, which is already upon us.

I’m also doing something daring with this retreat. I’m making it available at no cost. After much prayer and discernment, I have decided to offer this first retreat as a gift. I hope you will join me during this Advent and Christmas season (and invite your friends!) to gain some new perspective on the stories surrounding Jesus’ coming into the world.

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