Who is our neighbor? Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.
For me, the word neighbor has religious connotations as well. I would like to share those beliefs with you and as Mother Teresa said, “Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.” I would love for you to share your beliefs about neighbors below in the comments, because I believe that in sharing we gain appreciation and a deeper understanding of each other and, if we are lucky, Holy Envy.
I believe that God is love and that God dwells within all of us (neighbors). We are able to love because God first loved us. And if I want to respond in love, be close to God or to serve God, I must encounter my neighbor. To love God is to love others. I see value in organized region and regular worship. Worship orients us towards God and towards one another. Liturgy creates and organizes our actions, our being with ourselves and in the world.
I believe that faith in God calls us into a new way of living, a new way of being community. God’s call to love neighbors as ourselves includes everyone, especially those in the margins of our society. The way we are to put our faith into action is to be among the marginalized, listen to them, have compassion for them, have mercy on them, and bring them back into the center of our community. Then to go back into the margins and do it all again. This way of living is about restoring relationships and affirming the dignity of each neighbor.
I live out my faith in the way I make kits. I worship a loving God and I respond to that love by loving the person who will receive the kit that I hold in my hands. I am connected to her. She is my neighbor living in the margins of our global society. I am called to give her love, honor, and dignity. This kit is not a hand out, it is not coming from my left overs; items too used for me but good enough for her. This kit is gift. It cost me time and money, but I joyfully give it to my neighbor. Because this gift is expensive I hold it carefully, I check to be sure it is perfect in every way. I look at the stitching knowing it is my best work, my straightest stitching guided by my templates. I choose bright cheerful colors and patterns because it will make her smile and because it will hide the stains and spare her any embarrassment. I double check that I’m the only smiling face knowing that for her graven images are more than taboo in her Muslim faith. I respect her faith even though it is not mine, knowing we both believe in love. I cut the tag out of the wash cloth, I make sure to burn the edges of the ribbon, I check to be sure there aren’t loose threads because these things can be swept away from my floor, but she does not have the luxury of a waste management system, yet still deserves to live in a clean space. I turn to my co-leader, she and I read the liturgy, the gold standard quality control, it guides how we work, it reminds us this kit is worth gold, it reminds us that we are connected to our neighbor who will receive it. We hope, we pray, that she will return to school, that she will be restored to relationship with her friends and teachers she encounters there, and that she will feel love and share that love with her neighbors. Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.
If you are interested in reading more about how my faith is expressed in my work with Days for Girls:
 Barbara Brown Taylor writes about how teaching the different religions changed her students’ understanding of faith — as well as her own — in her new memoir, Holy Envy. She says the name of the book comes from her own experiences with different faiths. “I would walk in and immediately find something to fall in love with,” she says. “The beauty of the space, the tenor of the discourse, the teacher for the evening, the hospitality we were offered. I ended up being just bowled over by the beauty and kindness that I encountered every place I went. “
 These ideas started as scribbled notes from a conference I attended in June of 2019 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary “Between the Alter and the World: Interpreting the World Liturgically. The speaker was The Rev. Dr. Claudio Carvalhaes and his presentations were related to his books. Dr. Carvalhaes has published several books, the most recent of which is What Has Worship Got To Do With It? Interpreting Life, Church and the World Liturgically(Cascade Books, 2018). He also authored a book to be published in 2019, Preaching and Liberation Theology: Metaphors for Our Time(Abingdon Press).
 I’ve recently read, “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates and “Church in the Round” by Letty M. Russell. Both women’s writings influenced the way I wrote about marginalized people.