We Form Each Other

Rida Zaidi (She/Her/Hers) is a graduate from DePaul University that majored in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. Rida is from Chicago, IL, born and raised in Rogers Park. Throughout her career, she has been involved in community organizing and policy work, interning at organizations like City of Chicago Law Department, Communities United, and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. She currently works at the law firm - Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg.  

Dancing has always been at the forefront of my life- through cultural weddings, school performances, and freestyling.  

One highlight of my high school career was when my dance team was selected for the Illinois State Competition. We were the only ones from the whole city of Chicago. The original piece we performed was a compilation of each member's ideas including pivot turns, dance lifts, and ballet pliés. Performing this piece was pure bliss. I was invigorated by all the smiles on our team and the audience, and proud of all our hard work.  

The final product was beautiful, but combining the dance team’s different visions wasn’t easy. At first, everyone wanted to lead, and we kept getting tangled in each other’s ideas. Luckily, our dance teacher stepped in and split us into teams where each one was responsible for a different part of the dance. Each team contributed to the bigger picture, rather than demanding that their idea was the “better idea.” This experience exemplified how both dancing and interfaith tie into one’s individual responsibility and collective mindset. As people, we are responsible for our opinions and to what power we hold them to. Having a collective mindset isn’t about conforming your beliefs with people around you, but rather, using our judgment and knowledge to coexist.  

I attended Mather High School, the most diverse school in Chicago. It was easy to be surrounded by people who spoke a different language than me and people who came from diverse backgrounds. Amongst my group of friends, we spoke 5 different languages and practiced 3 different religions. What I didn’t know is that I had been doing interfaith work throughout high school without even knowing it. Along with my friends of various worldviews, we were volunteering, leading advocacy events for minimum wage, having conversations about homelessness with our State Representatives, and so on.  

It was not until my first year at DePaul when I was introduced to the term interfaith. I began to take in my experiences with other students to realize that interfaith is everywhere. Although it does include religion and faith, it is not limited to just that. Interfaith is about coexisting and building mutual relationships amongst people in diverse communities. We must grow, cooperate, and understand one another!  

This past month, I began reading a book called, “Think Again,” by Adam Grant which gives a framework on how to “unlearn,” and how we can rethink individually, mutually, and collectively. Putting it in the context of interfaith, it is sometimes challenging to rethink our own lens when we have held our viewpoints for quite some time. We must dismantle binary bias, which Grant describes as, “Our tendency to seek clarity and closure by simplifying complex ideas and situations into two categories.” When thinking about an issue, we immediately place ourselves on one side of the fence, hence there only being “one truth.” Realistically, we have more options than just being right or wrong. In order to build bridges, we must see how other people develop their beliefs and where it comes from. “A good debate is not a war….It’s more like a dance that hasn’t been choreographed, negotiated with a partner who has a different set of steps in mind... If you can adapt your moves to hers, and get her to do the same, you’re more likely to end up in rhythm.”  

In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations. When I have collaborated with other dancers to create a piece, we might not always see eye to eye, but there is a way to create peace amongst one another- by being willing to learn, being open to feedback, and finding ways to combine your ideas for the greater good. The same freeness that you feel when you are letting loose prancing, a similar feeling arises when you can talk it out. 

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

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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.