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Opinion | Susan Knopf: Love thy neighbor as thyself

Today is Christmas. Even though I’m Jewish, I think it’s a good time to well consider the message of Jesus Christ. Or at least what the Christian church says Jesus Christ taught. We all know this stuff was written down long after the fact, but it’s still pretty good thoughts to live by.

Literalists like to talk about the Kingdom of God, and cite New Testament scripture. But I like to think we are the hands of God working in the Kingdom. In the Jewish faith we call this Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. The first thing we can each do to repair the world is: Love thy neighbor as thyself

It’s time to pay attention to what you are consuming. Not just the food you put in your mouth, but the food you feed your ears, the food you feed your eyes and the food you feed your brain.



I’ve written this so many times, you’d think I’m a Rotarian. I’m not. I still think it’s awesome.

The Rotarian Four Way Test:



“Of the things we think, say or do:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

There’s a lot of propaganda these days intended to pit neighbor against neighbor. Check out the information you consume. Just because it’s on TV, or the internet, or forwarded by your pal you trust with your kids, doesn’t make it true. Is it true? Check it out. A Google search takes a minute or two.

I was surprised when a friend of mine, with a doctorate, was sending me a lot of internet trash. I just sent it back with Snopes and other debunking references. Pretty soon the friend stopped forwarding me garbage. It’s good. Garbage in. Garbage out.

It’s okay to disagree with friends, colleagues, neighbors. That doesn’t mean we trash mouth them. It’s okay to present refuting information. You don’t have to insult someone to do it. You can say, “That’s an interesting perspective. I disagree. I think, or this factual source clearly refutes that.”

After we put the brakes on the anger and the distrust, we can take another step. We can outstretch our hands. We can build bridges of understanding.

I have a friend who doesn’t believe in evolution. She thinks the earth is a just a few thousand years old. For the record, I was a reporter covering the creation science trial in Little Rock, Arkansas, when Bill Clinton was the governor. I’m also familiar with Charles Darwin and how he came up with “On the Origin of Species.” I think she’s wrong. It’s okay. We’re still friends. I enjoy her company, and I think she’s a person of sterling character.

Demonizing people who disagree with us is something uncivilized people do. It’s something fascists do. Politicians do it too. Think the McCarthy era. Think of the lives that were destroyed. It’s all vanity.

Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Speak truth. Not what you want to believe, but stuff that’s real. The Japanese and the Germans didn’t win World War II. The Holocaust really happened. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only genocide. Every genocide began with dehumanizing other people. Let’s not do that.

We can disagree. We can be respectful. We can be kind.

Practice random acts of kindness. Start today. My favorite is, let a smile be your default expression. When in doubt, smile. A smile can wash away a world of woe.

Pay it forward. Do something for someone else, with no expectation of a returned favor. Do something kind for a complete stranger. I like to keep prepackaged snacks in my car for panhandlers at intersections. In Minnesota, 900 customers paid for each others’ tabs at a fast food restaurant drive-thru. Start something. Something small can become something big.

In the spirit of the holidays, the biggest thing you can do right now, is to shut down anger and distrust. Put a smile on your face, and do something nice for someone. You’ll be amazed how good you feel! Merry Christmas.

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.


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