The Stranger Group Guide

Volume VII, Number IV

Artwork by Amy Liu

Through encountering others, we discover ourselves. It can be difficult, and even scary, to interact with strangers. But our worlds inevitably expand as we take that daring step. In this issue, you’ll find many thought-provoking pieces about the unknown, including memories of the past, the lives of fictional characters, and the unknowable in our very selves.

1. In this issue’s Big Question, “When Is It Important to Preserve Boundaries?,” Gracie Griffin explains that we should push some boundaries, like first impressions and the “us-versus-them” walls we put up, while we hold tight to others, like the communities we cherish and our gut instincts. The first thing Gracie does is admit that boundaries are complicated. Can we strengthen our communal identities while also challenging us-versus-them thinking? And in what ways should we stick to our gut instincts while also questioning first impressions?

2. William has heard a lot of stories. With grandparents from Haiti and Korea, he has a unique perspective on an often “strange” world. In “Relative Strangers,” he writes, “My childhood has been surrounded by stories . . . brought to life by the people that have survived decades to tell them, people I love dearly but will never truly understand.” What do you think William meant when he said he’d never “truly understand” his family despite knowing their stories so well? What about your own family? Who do you know the best? The least? What untold stories would you want to ask about? What stories would you like to better understand? What stories will you perhaps never fully understand?

3. Who is “the stranger”? After September 11th, Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Imam Jamal Rahman — known as the Interfaith Amigos — came together to share interfaith dialogue. In this issue’s PerSpectives article, “Honoring the Stranger,” they talk about how their respective traditions instruct their communities to treat “the stranger” with grace. What do the Interfaith Amigos mean by “the stranger”? What does Pastor Don mean by “grace”? Who do you view as a stranger, and how might you treat them with grace? Brainstorm a list of five things you could do to cross that invisible boundary and welcome a stranger into your life.

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