Saturday, November 24, 2012

You can't be there for everyone, but be there for someone.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” - Seneca

     The universe began as a random chance happening.  A gathering of great mass and matter that had no choice but to expand outwards with such energy that an even more random chance had formed what we see in the skies light years away and what we live in today.  

Chance occurred again and instruction sets were perfectly written into the first living organisms billions of years after that initial energy push.  Chance kept occurring in such a random set of violent happenstance that down to the molecule, organic Nano technology that make up you and me occurred naturally, over billions and billions of years that we are here and know each other by the slimmest of odds that made our existence possible.  It was all chance.

Or, it wasn’t.

I tread very carefully when I have conversations about our origins.  Since I was not around In the Beginning, and neither were you, the acceptance of your worldview without empirical data comes down to one thing.  Questions like these are important but the overall outcomes of the answers are the same in the end.  You have people trying to prove one point of view or another for answers that require a bit of faith.

Christianity centers itself less in our origins, even though they are important, but more importantly on our relationships.  Jesus told those who would listen to treat others how you would like to be treated: Mercy, compassion, kindness, understanding and love. No one wants to be unloved, unforgiven or treated harshly. Humanity acts otherwise.  We are mostly selfish and we protect our own immediate circle of relations.  It is a conscious choice to move beyond that.

     In the past few years I have come across many different kinds of people.  If I can ever teach my children anything it would be to pay attention to people.  Not in areas that do not matter but in areas that do.  In Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Jacob Marley’s guilt says it best when he shouts

“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Who really is my neighbor, and why should I care?  Many times in the past, I admit to my own ignorance and selfishness, I have been brought into contact with people who didn’t need another anonymous greeting and experience in which they were forgotten as soon as they left my sight, but that is what I gave them.  Their problems are their own or someone else’s who knows them better.  How hard would it be for me to be something different, an ear to listen for a few minutes; to think and offer another perspective to an issue that was so easily seen in a painful expression on their face?  

I am not a leader in my church, not a psychologist with a practice, not a person who works in a local community outreach type environment or a licensed counselor.  I speak to Christians.  My prior excuse would always focus on the fear that I would make matters worse, or be no help at all.  Sometimes problems are so bad and run so deep they do require that level of support. 
Initially, I just made decisions that allowed me to be a better friend to those I knew, and care about those who I saw my own faults in.  Then, if anyone else I met along the way needed either of those two things, I made choices to be available to them.  That made a difference.

Understandably when you take on another’s problems you take on them as a person.  Bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.  THAT’S Christianity, don’t ever think anything different.  You take care of their recovery in health, or pay their debts and you come back to check on them to see how they are recovering later on, YOU are the Good Samaritan after all.  You integrate this person into your life and are sure before you cut the strings that enable them, that they are made whole, they can walk, provide for themselves and be on their way and hopefully do the same for others.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Arthur Baldwin

You find that your kindness and caring was the courage they needed, the acceptance they sought and the understanding that no one else cared to offer.  Suddenly they matter when someone else showed them they mattered.  It sounds simple, but I have found so few people that do it.  And in that established relationship you help lighten the load of what they carry and you begin to carry it too.  You learn about the death of their child, or the unloving spouse, the dying relative, the home in foreclosure, the fight with the college roommates, the parent who never approved of their job, the infidelity of their heart, the horrible abuse from a relative when they were young or the teen who wonders why a parent left.  In a moment of listening and assurance you validate an existence.  How selfish we are with our time, when just a few minutes can make such a difference to someone.

How far that little candle throws its beams, So shines a good deed in a naughty world. - Shakespeare.

To me, personally, I am no different than the people I form these extended relationships and friendships with.  I have the same flaws, the same imperfections.  It’s humbling when you see yourself in another person who is struggling.  It forces honesty in you about your own flaws and shortcomings.

You can’t be there for everyone, because you will never meet everyone, but you can be there for the people that come across your path.  What you are capable of is something that takes just a little time, and enforces qualities in you that we all wish the world had a bit more of; selflessness, gratitude, giving and understanding.

It’s qualities I hope to teach my children and what I hope to have a little bit more of for those around me.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ~Corinthians 13:7-8