I am in Europe today on business…just hours after the Brexit announcement. The news of the UK’s “divorce” from the EU dominates every conversation. People are worried. It is a moment of uncertainty. A decision by people in another place has proven yet again to be relevant, and looming, in people’s lives everywhere. It is a serious issue. There is good reason that the world is talking, and fretting, about it. a few hours ago, I thought political break-up would be the headline of my time here.
Until an elevator ride, and a chance meeting, turned the focus of the weekend from political divorce into real-life marriage.
I will spare folks the details here, but let’s just say I found myself in an elevator with the groom of the wedding that was to take place later in the day at my hotel. My first thought was, “Give him some space, Sherinian. You don’t have to talk with everyone.” But something prompted me to dive in. We ended up chatting, and before I knew it I was given a front-row seat into the pending nuptials. As with so many weddings, there was some pre-ceremony drama, lots of emotions, and families making things as wonderful and difficult at the same time. Before I got in that elevator, I was not thinking about what unites Europe. I was thinking about how mad people are, how much people mistrust anything viewed as “different” than their own culture, and how much divides us. This chance meeting changed my view of things.
This couple was facing some real hurdles to make life work. Multiple cultures. Multiple, and unique, religious backgrounds. Competing expectations from family. Economic pressures. As with any marriage, the list goes on and on…
A few hours later, after a day full of meetings (and in the last place I expected to be Sunday night) I found myself at the wedding party where the bride and groom were celebrating their new life together. It was a celebration of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Austrian, Turkish, British and American cultures. And it was taking place in a city where fear and war and prejudice had once threatened to tear apart a society. It was taking place on a weekend when political pundits are forecasting the fallout from EU divorce. But in that wedding celebration, it was clear that the most important unions still, despite statistics and challenges, can and do work. I was witnessing a European Union of an important kind. The kind built on love.
Good luck to the Bride & Groom. I offered them a traditional Armenian greeting for newlyweds. “May you both grow old on one pillow.” May that be true for so many of us. May people live and grow old and thrive together on one pillow, remembering what unites them more than what divides.