Heroic Acts by Ordinary People: A Conversation

Thus was the consensus of a planning team from the University of Richmond and IFYC when we collectively realized plans for an on-campus visit from Eboo Patel in April had to be scuttled because of Covid-19. And so, we did. A webinar interview emerged, shaped by a spiritually reflective conversation on the anxiety and hope of the present day, bookended by two intensely personal stories that Eboo shared, each with elegant illustrations adding to the aesthetic.

Watch the full webinar recording.

Since the interview aired, I’ve heard from many people within the Richmond community and beyond offering heart-felt appreciation for the experience. My pastoral instincts suggest the appreciation comes from a sense that someone finally voiced how they’ve been feeling: anxious, overwhelmed, unsure and confused, leavened with a heavy dose of hope and creativity. 

As I reflect on the interview with Eboo, I’m left pondering two foundational ideas he shared. The first is that every heroic act is done by an ordinary person. We’re surrounded by ordinary people doing heroic things: healthcare workers and mail carriers, grocery store clerks and home-schooling parents, researchers and janitors, and so many others. None of them, Eboo, reminded us, imagined life would be this way two months ago. And yet all of them, and all of us, now find the extraordinary in the ordinary. My own Protestant tradition claims that a sacrament is when the ordinary material of creation is blessed for grace-filled purposes. These ordinary acts are not only heroic, they are downright sacramental.         

And second, I’m left welcoming the power of friendship to carry us through hard times and help us imagine the future. Eboo spoke of friends he has re-connected with in surprising ways. Petty slights forgotten. Light humor and tender-heartedness now renewed. My social media scrolling has taken on a more personal tone, re-connecting me with loved ones I have known over so many decades, a poignant reminder that the love is at the core of our lives and shapes the ethic of our wisdom traditions. Augustine was right. Friendship may yet save us. 

We are all ordinary people, bound together by extraordinary relationships. There is nothing new about that. How wonderful of Eboo to remind us, especially now. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

North Carolina is not alone in regard to macro-level efforts by state governments to increase access to vaccines, subverted by micro-level actions by individuals.
A través de mi experiencia, sé que las familias hispanas han sido gravemente, y desproporcionadamente, afectadas por la pandemia, y los datos de la Encuesta sobre Diversidad Religiosa y Vacunas de 2021 de PRRI-IFYC lo corroboran.
"It is permissible within our religion to defer, or to make up your fast later if you're feeling sick."
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this.
As the last few days of Ramadan are upon us – take our interactive quiz to find out how much you really know about this holy month.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith.
As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place.
IFYC is collecting prayers and meditations from diverse faiths to show our solidarity with the people of India, as well as links to charitable organizations that people can support.
Generally, tradition holds that the body is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs. This need for rapid disposal has also contributed to the current crisis.
“Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today. It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities." - Margari Aziza Hill, MuslimARC
Recently, I asked a group of IFYC Alumni to share what they do in one sentence. I love their responses because they capture who they are so well.
As a nurse and a physician occupying different spheres in relation to the patient, Anastasia and I held comparable but also differing views about the role of religion and interfaith in the realm of patient care.
El movimiento necesita artistas, educadores, trabajadores de la salud, padres, funcionarios electos, científicos, clérigos, directores generales, y cuantas personas sea posible para hablar en contra de la injusticia donde sea que la veamos.
The scholarship covers the students’ tuition, as well as housing and living assistance while they pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across all 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates.
En esta foto del sábado 9 de mayo de 2020, el Rev. Fabián Arias lleva a cabo un servicio en casa, al lado de los restos de Raúl Luis López quien murió de COVID-19 el mes previo, en el barrio Corona del distrito de Queens en Nueva York.
It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.