lymantria dispar

Do we care too much?

Somewhere under my bed, in a shoebox, is an old leather wallet that for years I carried around with me. Inside the wallet is a mess of business cards, in all about as thick as a deck of cards, that I began compiling in middle school and continued collecting and adding to until college. Represented there is a curious vocational conglomerate of DJ's, business(wo)men, caterers, lawyers, detectives, fashion executives, and the like. But it all began in the eighth-grade when a guy visited my science class on a personal mission: Gypsie Moth Suppression. Now to make a long and ridiculous story short: the card, the man, the mission, his passion- it was all hilarious--So hilarious, in fact, that I saved his card all these years (I seriously believe that someone creative could make a movie from that man's story). And so, at particularly dry junctures in our lives, my friend and I would pull out this card and just die laughing together remembering this guy's visit. It was unbelievable to us that anyone, anywhere, would be that overly and disproportionately devoted to a cause so seemingly obscure and laughable. He just ate and breathed this stuff. It was everything to him.

But it makes me wonder now if we're all passing out cards like that and if God is laughing at the attention given our causes and convictions? If we care about some things too much? Or in caring too much for some things, if we care far too little about the real and pressing priorities of life? Or more simply, I wonder if we even care about the right things in the first place?

I was on the El train the other day as a blind man walked aboard, cane in one hand and empty bucket for change in the other. And so knowing he couldn't see me, I watched carefully as he began audibly asking the entire car for any loose change they might spare him. Now you need to know that this particular train was heading to and passing through the city's most affluent neighborhoods where wine glasses overflow each night and eye glasses are gold rimmed and Gucci. So here's this grown man--now just the shell of a man--robbed his dignity, brought to nothing, blind and forced to beg, absolutely dependent on the whimsical giving of men half his age. And everyone is just sitting there absolutely silent, moving as little as possible as this old man carefully clinks and clanks his cane down the aisle, literally inches from the unseen passengers leaning and looking away from him in disgust and discomfort. "Excuse me. I'm sorry. I apologize" his gentle humility humiliating everyone in ear shot of him. How long has he been at this? And what must this do to a man? And so I'm watching in amazement as people sneaking obvious glances behind books and bodies look on at him like as if merely a problem and not a real person; his blindness a necessary impairment convenient for the gathering of observational data to be collected and then considered at a later point. But this man's persistent and just keeps asking and apologizing, over and over, like a broken record stuck in repetition--multiplying the car's corporate shame. At different points he actually bumps into a few mute bodies around him. And I could just hear the internal monologues rationalizing our tight fists with "concern" over where he might spend the money, what his addictions may be, or how helping him would in fact be hurting him. I could hear each of us asking the silent question, "Is he worth a dollar?"

At this point now he's distant down the car from me, my amazement mixing with anger, when all at once two individuals reach out to him: One a middle aged female minority, clearly cleaning a nearby home and not living there. The other (quite likely) an open homosexual. And it made me wonder if any of the rest of us on that car really cared about anyone else that day? If any rationalization could adequately excuse our greedy self-righteous judgments? And it makes me wonder, in all our posturing and attempts to be right, if we've forgetten what it is to be good?

How many times in our lives, or how many times everyday, are we unknowingly present in a familiar parable? How often does the desire to be right make it impossible to be good? And how can we go on about our lives unable or else unwilling to see our very selves within the Biblical narrative, being written into the story--for better or for worse? My mind flashes back to the story in Mark of the widow who outgives the rich man with her comparatively small gift. My mind goes to Micah who tells us that what is good and what the Lord asks is that we "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God." To actually do it--not consider it, reflect on the idea or read a book about justice. And I wonder how it was that amongst all the intellectual knowledge, privilege, and moral high ground provided the affluent on board the train that day-- none of us were blind enough to love that blind man and see the unseen invisible Kingdom of Christ there in our midst--available and inviting us to creatively participate, give him twenty dollars, ask him his name, listen to his story, buy him a sandwich, or invite him to dinner.

How damningly ironic that only the foreigner and a sinner did right that day.

"And then Jesus asked them, 'Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'"