Show him kindness…
It’s been a bit of a wild ride these past few months. This is a bit of a wild month we’re closing. We had the 9/11 anniversary earlier this month, which is always a churning time. It seemed more so this year, in many ways. It seemed, like everything else, a story to polarize us rather than to be reminded to come together. Slightly ironic that the biggest comment was, as each of us was arguing and polarizing things, that it was so nice how much the events of 9/11 brought people together.
I remember those days. I remember it bringing us together. Yes, there was division, but I lived in a city and it was one of the few city times, maybe my only city time, that people reached out to one another in such a big way. I can’t help but wonder how many reminders we’re going to need before we get it.
We’re closing this month with the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It didn’t take long for us to stop honoring her accomplishments and her life and fall into more polarizing behaviors. We’ve already forgotten her for her seat. If you haven’t watched On the Basis of Sex, that’s a great and easy start for honoring her accomplishments and our history.
Through it all, the virus has us pitted against one another. Who’s wearing a mask? Who’s not wearing a mask? Should we wear a mask? Shouldn’t we wear a mask? Let’s not even begin on the vaccine. Now, I’m not, absolutely not saying that we should shut down conversation. I’m reflecting on how, exactly, are we conversing? Are we even conversing or have we begun each conversation already pitted against one another. How is the story being presented?
We could have a whole reflection on masks and masking ourselves. What we’re hiding with masks…that could be a fun one. My personal note on masks that might be helpful, as difficult as they are, I think of the masks as a way of helping thy neighbor. By wearing a mask, I protect my neighbor’s health. I also protect my neighbor’s livelihood and ability to go out and do good work. I feel like, despite all of the reasons for not wearing a mask (currently), that helping thy neighbor is the one and most important reason for doing so (so long as it is safe for you to do so; truly, some people can not/should not be wearing a mask for their own health, so be careful to “judge not”).
Now, let’s get back to the falling apart. We’ve got wildfires in the west. We’ve got hurricanes in the south.
The world is scary. The world is falling apart. “Other people” are ignorant and wrong. We don’t even want to engage with them. We want to separate ourselves…sometimes for our own sanity. A little note on that, yes we sometimes need a break (Quote of the Week: “most anything will work again if you unplug if for a few minutes, including you”), but we must also engage. I find it helpful to remember that we believe in a God that has put a touch of the divine in each and every one of us. Including those who are on the “other” side. Can we seek to find that light in each and every one? Not just the people we like. Not just the people behaving in ways we understand. But everyone.
I’m guessing we’ve got more dramatic times coming in the next few months. We’ve an election on the way. How is the news going to handle it? How are we going to handle it? What should we believe? What should we not believe? How do we know what to believe when what was “fact” last week becomes a lie this week?
Those who want to help don’t even know where to begin. It’s frustrating. It’s scary. The world seems to be falling apart.
How is the story being presented?
Let me read you a story.
Read aloud: Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 21-37
How are we looking at this story? We tend to look at the Good Samaritan. The guy who steps in and helps even though he’s a foreigner. We’ve got a “good samaritan” law in our country to protect us when we step in to help. The good samaritan shows us how to act. How people should act. That we should step in and help.
That’s one side of the story, but what if we look at it another way?
What if we look at the story as if it isn’t about the good Samaritan, but about the others in this story. What if the “news” worthy-ness of this story is the “bad” guys?
What if what’s unusual in this story, that which makes it newsworthy, is that a priest and a Levite wouldn’t help someone in need? What if the Samaritan, as a neighbor, is only doing what any decent human being would and it’s unusual that a priest, a priest, would turn away. Maybe what’s unusual is that the Levite (a descendent of one of the twelves tribes, a higher up Jew, often a helper to the temple priests) would turn away? Maybe the story is about…the priest and the Levite. It’s that the men of God are behaving in a way that isn’t…neighborly.
Because to do good, to be good, is the…norm. Even a Samaritan, who at the time of Jesus would be distrusted as “other”, would help out someone in need. What’s not expected is that a priest and a Levite didn’t step in to help.
News often isn’t what’s wrong, it’s what not normal. It’s not normal for people to behave in bad ways to one another. To not help. To pit one another against one another. It’s not normal. If it was a societal norm, it wouldn’t make the news.
What if we look at news in a different light? What if we remind ourselves that much of the news is new, because it shouldn’t happen and does. It’s unusual. The news doesn’t focus on the good and the appropriate work being done. It focuses on the sensational bad. It focuses on what’s loud. We don’t see the people who are quietly doing the work that needs to be done. We see what’s…loud.
Look around you to find normal. Look at how a day unfolds. It’s full of boring acts of people quietly doing work, doing good work, being kind. Loose cannons are LOUD. They need to be heard over the good. They distract us from the goodness in the world.
Yes, the world is full of things we need to address. Yes, we have important political change on the horizon. But sometimes, we need to unplug for a few minutes and recharge with seeking the goodness all around us.
Look what you seek is what you find. Remember that despite all the loud things that make the news, that quietly, without making the news, there are many, many, many people doing great things and leading others to quietly, peacefully do great things.
And as RBG says, “Fight for the things you care about, but in a way that will lead others to join you.” That sounds like working toward quiet goodness in our lives and encouraging those around us to do the same, creating a ripple effect of goodness and kindness. If you have the privilege of doing bigger work in the world, do it with goodness and kindness.
Maybe our small acts aren’t newsworthy…but that’s probably a good thing. Maybe our small acts aren’t newsworthy, but they matter. Act in a way that inspires others. And after you recharge, be a present force for right.
God grant me the fruitfulness of faith as I go about my day. God grant me the fruitfulness of faith as I close my eyes this night. God grant me the fruitfulness of faith as I begin a new week. God grant me the fruitfulness of faith as I interact with each person this week. God grant me the fruitfulness of faith as I take rest for a few minutes each day to recharge, uplift myself, and fill myself with faith. God grant me the fruitfulness of faith. Amen