Shawn Smucker writes a story of unlikely friendship. Born in opposition, a Christian and a Muslem find that love triumphs over the current narrative. In forging friendship despite personal comfort zones, language barriers and cultural obstacles, this story of friendship with Mohammad, Smucker writes, is the answer our society seeks. “This, it seems to me is the first step in bringing a lasting peace.”
Taking the biggest risk of his life, Mohammad decided to take his family and flee their Syrian home. How they longed for peace. To find the comfort in the ordinary life of “normal days and neighbors with whom they could drink coffee and talk.” It was a risk that would cost them everything and send them as refugees to a land unknown.
Shawn Smucker writes a book of practicality and what it looks like to be a real friend. To reach past the inconvenience, the uncomfortable. To step into a world not your own, to see this country through another’s eyes. This book for me was an interesting take, because it acts as a manual on how to be a friend. In a world that is inundated with social media, where connections are made but friendship and fellowship is rarely achieved. Mohammad’s yearning to have coffee with neighbors pierced my heart as I see the gaping hole in the neighborly friendship of our culture.
The social media status of 1024 “friends” presents a false sense of relationship. In Once We Were Strangers, Smucker describes what the act of friendship looks like. Expressions of kindness such as giving a car ride and taking time for actual phone conversations. Sitting and listening to the story of another. Pushing past the selfish desire to simply get where you are going as fast as you can. Being willing to detour your drive and check on a friend. To truly listen, advocate and advise. This is a story of bridging the gap, not just between two widely different cultures but between the lost art of friendship and the counterfeit friendships of social media. I recommend this book to any who is looking to read a story of something real. Something tangible. Something to cling to.