I wonder if it’s true for many of us or just me, but I’m guilty of taking my life for granted. I’m guilty of taking all my freedoms for granted. I’m guilty of taking my daily life-privileges for granted. I’m guilty of going to my job everyday, reading my library book when I grab lunch, having dinner with Linda and our two healthy, funny boys and then watching TV until bedtime…and then climbing into my nice, warm bed for a peaceful night’s sleep…I’m guilty of taking all of that - each and every moment - for granted. I’m guilty of forgetting that for most of the world that’s just not the case.
These recent days have been unbelievable in our country. We have allowed a man who is running for the highest office in our land to say something cruel and inconceivable out loud. Over and over and over again. His statement to ban Muslims from entering the country is such a farce, such a joke – and I look around and no one is laughing. I’m shocked and baffled and wounded to see that some folks are cheering. Those who hear and understand it for the racist statement that it is – those folks are crying.
It matters. It matters that I/that we voice our responses to this culture of hate. It matters that we make eye contact, and speak to our Muslim brothers and sisters. It matters that we speak to these statements of separation and discrimination. It matters that I/we not let him speak for me/us.
I look around and wonder how we could have gotten to this place in our culture. Have we gotten so complacent with our screens and fast-food-lifestyle that we’re able to lump an entire segment of people into one grouping and then cut them off? Done and done? What will happen to our souls if we don’t say “no?” “No, that’s not who we have worked all these years to become.” “No, this is not the way we view and interact with one another.” “No, this is not who we have dreamed ourselves to be.” If this, then what will be the next ripping in the tapestry of our country?
As hospice chaplain, I visited a patient and her husband this week that were at one time refugees. They escaped from China. They left the place that had been their home, where their parents were, where their grandparents and beloved family members were buried. They left that place and came to the United States. They followed their hearts and their hope for what could be better and came here. They raised their two daughters and now are marveling at their granddaughter as she turns 2 next week.
The patient’s husband taught me the Chinese character for the word “well” (which is at the heart of Isaiah’s reading for tomorrow). He drew it on his wife’s white board, which she used when she lost her speech. He drew the character that looked very much like this: “#.” He said in the center is a circle and that means, “well.” He taught me, “The well is in the center of every village and community. It is the place that represents the life of the community. No matter how big the village may grow, the well is always in the center of who and where they are.” Isaiah 12: 3 says “With joy draw water from the well of salvation.”
This couple, these foreigners, these immigrants teach me each time I visit their house. They teach me of hospitality, of dedication and commitment to one another through and beyond illness, they teach me of their deep love of the Eucharist and of God. And this week, this man taught me the Chinese word for “well.” This image of “well” that is speaks to that which brings life, refreshment, renewal for all who encircle it. How much better my heart is for them and their risking years ago to be pilgrims.
Georgia Congressman, John Lewis spoke these words (although he might have been the first, but I quote him now) “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
Thanks to our friend Reverend Jan L. Richardson for this benediction:
One: Not to one but to many you have been called:
All: Come on the dancing wind. Come
One: from the deepest forest. Come
All: from the highest places. Come
One: from the distant lands. Come
All: from the edges of darkness. Come
One: from the depth of fear
All: And become the bearer of God.
Amen and amen.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.