Faith, Hope and Love

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

With the holiday season upon us, it is the perfect time to remind ourselves that not everyone celebrates the end of the year in the same way. Take it from someone who went to Catholic school with the name “Goldenberg.”

Back then I wondered why the nun’s eyebrows went up when they called the role each day. I was raised Catholic, but my birth father, who was never much of a father and left Mom and me when I was nine months old, was Jewish. I call him simply “the sperm donor.” Hence the name “Goldenberg,” but I was in church with the rosary beads in my hand every time the doors opened. Yet, I attended lots of Jewish events like Bar Mitzvah’s and such with my paternal grandparents.

As a kid, it was confusing trying to understand religion and where it might lead me in my path ahead. But I am so grateful during this Thanksgiving season to have learned early on that God loves us all, regardless of our faith. I remember asking my mom if my Jewish side of the family was going to go to Heaven. That worried me. And she replied, “Absolutely. God loves all of his children. Besides, Jesus and His family are Jewish.’ Way to go Mom. She always had the right answers at the right time.

My maternal grandparents, who Mom and I lived with, had religious differences too. My grandfather was Episcopalian and whenever he would have too much drink, especially Friday nights after being out with his pool-shooting buddies, he would come home to my very Catholic grandmother and debate the birth of Jesus. “I will never understand how you Catholics could possibly believe that Mary was a virgin!” Pop knew it would get my grandmother’s goat every time she yelled at him for coming home intoxicated. He was never a mean drunk, but rather silly and goofier after a few drinks.

Recently I lost my cool twice over comments made by friends. One who is a realtor said he was showing a house to some folks who gave a low-ball offer on a house. And without repeating what he said – you can only imagine! Duh! Who would not want to start low! It’s part of the game.

Another instance was when a friend was describing a couple I did not know but she wanted me to meet so I could network with them job-wise in the community. She said, “You will love them. They are such good Christians.”

I replied a little sharply, “I would love them if they were such good Hebrews too.”I know folks don’t mean to sound harsh but that line always gets to me. You rarely hear anyone say, “She is such a good Jew.” But if your circle of friends does not include people of other faiths, just know they are out there in record numbers and are doing great things in the world, just like Christians. As difficult as it was growing up trying to understand religion and faith among my various family members, I am grateful that I was taught to be open-minded and to show respect to others for who they are and what they believe.

One of the moments I am most thankful for came when I led singing sessions at Brightwater Nursing Center. At the time, I was guardian for two of their residents and was asked to lead some Christmas songs one afternoon. As everyone knows, elderly people may not know what day it is or where they live, but will react to music in a gigantic way. After singing three popular Christmas songs, I noticed a woman named Mildred not singing, yet clapping along with the others. When I asked if she had ever heard these songs, she said, “Yes, but I am Jewish and don’t know the words.” That’s when I broke into a few verses of my Jewish grandmother’s favorite song in Hebrew. I’ll never forget the light in Mildred’s eyes and her smile as she joined me in song.

I may not understand all other faiths, but I respect those who lead good lives, helping their neighbors with goodwill in their hearts. Let’s not get caught up this year in wishing or not wishing people Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah. I respond to all with, “Have a blessed season,” because it truly is. As I sit before a Thanksgiving table full of turkey and stuffing and family members I treasure, I will be thankful for so many things, but mostly grateful I was raised in a diverse family that taught me to have faith in God, hope for better things to come in the world, and love and respect for all of God’s children.

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane is the host and producer for “Inside Out” as seen on HTC TV Channel 4, and serves as a commercial spokesperson for several local businesses. She and her husband Chuck own Stages Video productions in Myrtle Beach and share passions for food, theater, travel and scuba diving.

    They own three four legged kids that they adore!

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One Response to “Faith, Hope and Love”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Loved this, and wholeheartedly agree.

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