Got to rue Cler late today, had to stay and hear the sermon twice this morning at the ACP - the pastor actually addressed out loud the issue that’s been silently eating away at the congregation, the question of homosexuality and Christianity. Without getting into details, despite confessing that he is one of those who consider homosexuality biblically forbidden, he was able to preach unity, love and tolerance. And he accomplished it with grace, dignity, humour and intelligence, and more - I wasn’t the only one who had to dig for tissues. Hats off to pastor Alex Aronis.
But the kicker for me was that afterward I looked for cheer in the faces of my fellow supporters of gays in church matters, and found instead glum looks of “he didn’t go far enough”! They sounded as stubbornly suspicious and intolerant as the homophobic members of the congregation!
So at noon, walking in the blinding sunshine away from the church, I met and spoke with my 3rd floor neighbour, discussed the upcoming elections – is Rachida Dati really being parachuted in by Sarko? – and the diversity topic came up again. How the 7th arrondissement risks losing its community feel because no one but the rich can afford living here anymore. She said there is discreet government housing in the 7th – one apartment building right on St. Dominique - but everyone knows that it goes to people who know the right people, who hardly need cheap rent.
There are still surprises here, though. As a bike races past me, I look up and the cyclist is not a flashy guy in tights, but an elegant businessman in an impeccable black suit, pedaling fast. Heading down rue Cler, where gypies are selling jonquils and street entrepreneurs are hawking sunglasses, I find the usual diverse Sunday strollers along with politicos and their cameras, and even more circus than usual despite the vacances scolaires starting this weekend.
Eating lunch at Tribeca with next-door neighbour Vincent, we wonder, how far does diversity go on a personal level? Cheap rent would be great but do we want to live next to those who can only afford it with financial support? We’ve all had neighbours from different cultural backgrounds whose mode de vie clashes with ours – late-night partiers, smelly food-lovers, early risers who blithely turn up the radio at 6am. Love thy loud, smelly, obnoxious neighbour? That’s a challenge – and we’re talking on a trivial level, let’s not even try to figure out places like Kosovo and Israel.
Then a big American thrusts his way into the conversation of the French trio dining next to us: “You gotta great dog, your Pekinese, does he bark at people he meets like mine does?” Speaking too quickly, he repeats himself, “does he bark at people?” Smiling, the dog-owners are trying to compute the word “bark”, I translate, everyone is happy – they thought he said “bite!”
And monsieur tells a great story about going through airport customs coming off a Paris/NYC flight, jetlagged, tired, and the agent asks his reason for the visit. His brain is sluggish, so turning to his companion in line behind him, he asks loudly, “C’est quoi le mot pour vacances?” And 100 waiting Parisians yell out, “holidays!” Big laugh from the douane, as he waves him through.
Diversity – culture, language, wealth, sexuality – despite the hiccups, in the end it’s half the fun of being here, isn’t it?