Maybe I shouldn’t write anything this morning when a hate crime rends our hearts. If you think so, stop reading and say a prayer for the victims, and for those who loved the victims, and for all of us.
If you choose to keep reading, a story (which may be worth telling today…I’m not entirely sure) about a walk in Central Park last week, a sunny, breezy day. Everyone was out. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The diversity of the crowd was energizing, everyone doing their own thing. But I texted as I walked, apparently not a good idea. I stepped in a small pothole, twisted my ankle and conducted a dramatic gravity experiment, sprawled all over the sidewalk. One young urbanite on his phone was literally about five feet away, walking toward me. I fell in his path. And nothing. He didn’t even look at me, let alone say anything. Not “Are you okay?” or “Should I call for help” or “Are you inebriated?” or “Get the heck out of my way.” Nothing.
So in addition to a sore ankle and wounded pride, I was unsettled with the lack of human connection. My gravity experiment became a social experiment. It made me think about what has become of us all. This story may sound judgy about New Yorkers. As a New Yorker, that’s not my intention. It may sound judgy about this young man. That’s not my intention (well, okay, a little bit) .
But it got me thinking about how we see each other. To the extent that I am judging the guy, I’m inclined to wonder how he is like me (Usually the ways I judge other people end up having something to do with my own growth opportunities. Funny how that works.) It made me think about the ways I regard other people. Or don’t. Who is invisible in my scope?
I saw a video which described a recent study held in Europe, as people of that region grapple with the influx of refugees from Syria and other places. In this experiment, refugees were asked to sit in a chair facing a German citizen, also seated in a chair. In many ways, there was a huge chasm between those two folding chairs. They were told to stare in each other’s eyes for four minutes without saying a word. The study indicated that the silent engagement opened up deeper levels of understanding and compassion and relationship. After the silence, deep conversation started. People were changed when they really saw each other.
I don’t know if one can scale that kind of experiment, or if it has to say anything to us today but we could sure use something like it. It made me wonder how I might apply the principle on this day marked by collective grief. It might begin by recognizing that certain people may well be invisible to me. They may be strangers on the street, those without homes or food, and I just walk on by. They may be folks who differ from me on politics or religion. (How dare they?) They may be people of another religion. They may be people who work to add to my convenience and ease: waiters, grocery check out, flight attendants, folks on the other side of the globe staffing the phones for customer service. They may be people near by, with whom I work. They could be relatives. What would it mean to see people the way Jesus saw people? What happens to us, to our spirits when they are invisible to us, when they are dispensable?
Try this spiritual experiment. See someone today. See life from that person’s perspective. Look at the world from their point of view. Do so with the eyes of Christ. Maybe you’ll even notice someone who has fallen down.
And if you have read this far on this grim morning, now pray for the people of Orlando, those who died because of hate, those who mourn unspeakable loss, those now filled with deeper fear, those tempted to meet hate with hate.
And who is my neighbour? Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
I am what I am because of who we all are.
The Divine light in me acknowledges the Divine light in you.
The Baptismal Covenant:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbor as self?
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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