Sunday, May 29, 2011

A memorable Memorial Day

     For 4000 years, those of us who live our lives according to Judeo-Christian teachings have believed that the two greatest commandments are that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and that we should love our neighbor as our selves.  I don't know his motivation, but one day a man asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus responded with a story. He told of a man that was attacked, beaten and robbed and left for dead.  As he lay dying, two religious and moral elites walked by on the other side of the road, unwilling to get involved.  A third man, himself a social outcast, saw the man and was moved by compassion to take him into town and dress his wounds, then put up his own money to cover the victim's medical costs.  Jesus then asked his own question, "Who do you think was this man's neighbor?"

     His point was clear, every man is our neighbor.  We aren't supposed to get caught up in definitions, but instead just act.  I don't pretend to understand why God allows tragedy and human suffering.  I do know that through tragedy, the human spirit is often distilled to it's purest form. We grow sedentary and selfish in the easy times of life.  It takes suffering to stir our hearts to action.  It is in our response to tragedy that it is most clearly seen that we are indeed created in the image of God.

     My heart has been stirred by the devastation that occurred one week ago in Joplin.  The easy thing to do would have been to sit back and pretend that because I live 3 hours away, these people are not my neighbors.  I thank God for a wife who was so moved by compassion for these people we don't even know that she pushed me out  of my comfort zone and made me go with her and do something instead of just thinking about it.  We went and did what was really a miniscule amount in the grand scheme of things, but it changed me.  Tomorrow if possible I plan to go back and do a tiny bit more.  This time we will be joined by a much larger group.  Compassion is contagious.

      I start to think that I am becoming a bit preachy in my urging of others to go and do what they can.  I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty for their inaction, but rather I want others to know the indescribable joy of serving someone in need.  I want people to experience humanity the way God created us to.  I want to knock folks out of the every day rut that they have sunken into and realize that this isn't a government problem, or a local problem, but that it is a human problem. John Donne once wrote that no man is an island, entire in itself, but that we are each a part of the main and if one small clod be washed away, then we are the less.  When our neighbors in Joplin, or Tuscaloosa, or Louisiana, or Japan suffer, we all are effected.  Human suffering happens every day and it is just a matter of time until the next great tragedy strikes.  My question to whoever reads this is are you capable of looking the other way and justifying not getting involved in a way that lets you sleep at night, or are you like the Samaritan who was willing to roll up his sleeves and get a stranger's blood on his hands in order to save his life.  I won't lie to you, it's hard work and exhausting, but the sleep you earn by your efforts will be so much more refreshing that that you get by easing your conscience through excuses no matter how logical they may seem.

      Tomorrow is Memorial day.  I don't have to work.  I want to sleep in, take it easy, eat too much and think about nothing important.  Despite what I want to do, I am planning at getting up ridiculously early and making another 3 hour drive so that I can work my butt off for people I don't know and will never meet again.  I expect it will be the most wonderful and memorable Memorial Day of my life.  Who want's to join me?