Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It starts with me

My position within the Peace Corps places me in contact with many people who believe that we can make a difference in the world. Recently, I pulled the following from a volunteer's writings --

"The Talmud says that to save one life is to save the world. I think it is so much more. I think each smile or each snarl triggers a chain reaction that changes the world on a daily basis. Not a frozen smile that masks the person lying just underneath the surface -- not a smile that barely hides indifference. But to look at someone, dead on, and smile so that they know you really see them, deep down where they live, and still are happy to be in their presence. That changes someone's day. It changes all their subsequent interactions throughout the day, and consequently changes the world that day. Some days I forget that it starts with me. I feel badly because no one has smiled at me that day, no one has really seen me. Invisibility sets in. And then I remember that it starts with me." -- Alyson Peel, Peace Corps, Swaziland

That is the root of everything ... " It starts with me. "

Alyson works in Swaziland. She was a research scientist, has done some of the most prestigious research work at Berkeley and had recently lost her son to a heart attack. She had a right to see her work as too important and her life too distraught to care about the people in Africa, but she didn't. She saw a need, both in herself to accomplish something and in Africa, a need for healing hands. She would later write to a friend that, "Everything matters. Even the smallest thing can make a great difference."

How often do we do that? How often do we sacrifice our comfort to help others in need?

"30A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead."

We like to tell ourselves that those people in need did something to deserve what happen to them, its God's concern we say, but just maybe God is giving us an opportunity to show his mercy.

"31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side."

And yet we are circuit preachers, more concerned with our status and image and our conservative morality than we are with circulating God's love.

"32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side."

Or we are too clean in our starched white shirts to give a hand to a beggar man, or we are of too great an importance to bend our knee, or we are too busy on our way to our temples of Gold and silver. We would prefer to get ahead on worshipping our time and maybe if we wait long enough God will take care of it himself.

"33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

But maybe if we were to remember the treacherous state God pulled us out of, we could find the heart God bothered to give us

34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.

For what you do to the least of these, you do unto me, he said.

"35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. "Look after him," he said, "and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have."

Our bill has been paid. Each and every one of us, whether we want to admit it or not, has been bought and paid for. We were the ones deserving of our positions in the ditch. God picked us up and picked up the tab and promised to pay any other expenses we acquire in our life, then he told us, "Be like me." How hard is that? I would much prefer to put my energy behind loving perfectly than criticizing completely. I would prefer to give water to a thirsty child than trivialize drinking alcohol; I would rather share a cup of coffee with a homeless man than debate the morality of homosexuals; I would rather put my coat on the shoulders of the homeless than discuss the decency of someone's clothes. And I think God would prefer that I do that too. He is perfect love and perfect judgment. He only asked me to try and do one of those.

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"[
c]; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself."[d]
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

There is a wonderful ambiguity in scripture. This passage was followed by the expert asking, "Who is my neighbor?" segued into Jesus telling the story of the Good Samaritan. That Samaritan was a Stranger in a Strange Land and a far distance from home. In fact, you could probably board a plane and fly halfway round the world in the time it would have taken him to travel to where he came across the man in the ditch. In this modern age, we are all neighbors. This modern age also allows us the leisure of picking someone out of a ditch without leaving the comfort of our own homes.

God gives us plenty of opportunities to be his miracle workers. So, Share the love (www.samaritanspurse.org), quench a thirst (www.africanwellfund.org), heal a wound (www.data.org), be a neighbor (www.humanity.org). Give yourself to God ... He'll point you in the right direction.

I cannot expect peace unless I am willing to act on peace; I cannot expect God to do miracles unless I am willing to be the conduit for that miracle to happen.

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