The Least of These

You don’t have to be a practicing Christian to wish that our society was doing a better job living out Christ’s concern for children (“Let them come unto me . . .”) and for those who have no voice (“when you did it to the least of these . . . you did it to me”).

The beings among us whom we should be treating better have always been with us and always will be. But how are we to care for the well-being of all those children, all those homeless and mentally disturbed men and women standing at the exits of freeways–whose ranks seem to swell continuously? Wouldn’t we have to transform our world at its very roots in order to shut down the accelerating assembly line that is producing such human misery? What difference can one individual make in the lives of all those whose fates are routinely swept away in the course of business as usual?

We can periodically (in fact in a week or two from now) support increased funding for day-care, education, mental health services, and deplore, after the fact, the waging of wars whose inevitable harvest is homeless veterans with PTSD and missing limbs. But such services are always too-little, too-late, once war has been declared in some distant neighborhood.

Who does not grow weary of such societal break down and even wearier of standing by, a helpless bystander, as everything gets worse?

The world’s religions still speak to us. They remind us to care for our only home and the fellow beings who—like us—have nowhere else to go. But perhaps we have forgotten that we ourselves are those children who are missing in action.

Inside the weary adult we have become, there is still the innocent we once were. Can we reawaken the ability to see the world with fresh eyes and thereby rediscover that the world itself is being born afresh each moment? That probably can’t happen as long as we continue to march to the rhythm of whatever inertial forces are the loudest voices in our society.

We seem to be hypnotized by a vision that our world is gasping for its last breath. But at this moment a light rain is falling outside. Tree branches are swaying as I write under the warm light from a nearby lamp. The world feels new, and I hope I can carry that feeling inside me for a while.

8 comments to “The Least of These”
  1. Your first paragraph reminded me of something attributed to Ghandi. It went something like. “I like your Christ. I don’t like you Christians.” However, there are many Christians and others out there trying to make a positive difference without a “Look at me!” attitude.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Walter. I suppose I frequently draw upon my childhood exposure to Christian teachings with the remoteness of someone who never found in them a deep, challenging call to live more fully and be a better person. I found that impulse arising in me later in life: I probably needed to be caught by surprise by teachings that arrived on our shores from elsewhere.

    But the contrast I was hoping to draw was not between Christ and those who try to follow his teachings, but between all the deep spiritual understandings that are available for each of us to be inspired by, and the sense that the world is nonetheless slipping into the shadows. I often wonder–with so much private appreciation for the light of grace–why do we find ourselves choosing between joining the mobs of outrage and despair and the role of hopeless bystander?

  3. Think it’s ’cause we have oral language and often use it to communicate. Others do too but it is not often oral. My dogs communicate with their gaze & occasionally a growl to alert. So far no bites.

  4. Think it is more than just “slipping into shadows. Think it is more like running headlong into the abyss. Most scientists believe we are past the tipping point with regards to carbon emissions. New leader says it’s not true. He’s not a scientist. He just paid out $25 million to settle the Trump University lawsuit. Can you guess where his priorities lay?

  5. Caroyln’s comment caused me to take another look at your post. Immediately, in the midst of the first paragraph I thought of an answer to your question, “How we to care for…?” One at a time, or perhaps a few at a time as you did with the MS/ALS Caregivers Support Group and as I do with a grief support group.

  6. Is there a way to “act globally”, as Carolyn invites, and also to relate to our fellow beings “one at a time”, as Walter suggests?

    The phrase “Think globally, act locally” may have to be revised. If we feel that global momentums are heading toward the abyss, then obsessing about the recent past may not help us. Perhaps our entire relationship to daily life has to come closer to our own noses. Like our dogs, what we smell may be inches from our noses, but the wind picks up the winter scent of fallen pine needles as it passes over Sandia Crest. Just being present to what arises in our hearts and guides our hands towards wider considerations–beyond our own obsessions–may be the best we can do in these times.

    We still don’t know whether the dog will guard the house because he feels at home or bite the first stranger who approaches. It may be still up in the air: a matter to be determined beyond language, beyond any realm in which human intentions can prevail.

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