Friday, August 26, 2016

Human Kindness

Breathe, Mom!  I'm not pregnant!

The other day, I was driving down the road.  The car in front of me had this sign on its back window.  Baby on Board.  All of a sudden, this urgency of protectiveness washed over me.  I seriously hoped I was driving safely enough around this vehicle.  I wanted to do it for that baby that was on board that car.

Then I dove in and gave it a deeper thought:  "Wait a minute!  There's not just a baby in that car.  What about the driver?!  Maybe there are children riding along." 

And I got a little sad.

Sad, not because we have to be reminded to drive more safely because there is a baby in the car ahead of us, but sad because we offer up such a protective state when we see a baby. . .and yet, we lose total focus of the mere fact that what we should be doing--what we are called to do--is respect the fact that there is a human being--a living, breathing, child of God--sitting in that car.

Some of us will rationalize that the person sitting in that car is not worthy of our respect.  It may be gender or color or behavior that stirs us to excuse ourselves from showing that respect.  It may be ability, financial or physical, that we think gives us the right to look down on that car's occupant.  It may simply be that the person just. . .well. . .isn't as perfect as us.

Before I went to South Africa, I read Desmond Tutu's book, No Future Without Forgiveness, and I thought I landed on a gold mine.  He talked about this concept called Ubuntu.  At its basic sense, according to Wikipedia, it's "human kindness," but Tutu explains it as much more than that.  "My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. . .a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that [one] belongs in a greater whole and is diminished, when others are tortured and oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are."

And my life was changed.  That is how I decided I wanted to view humanity.  It seemed to me the way God would want it.  That my human-ness is woven within, and because, of your human-ness, and when you (whoever you are) are diminished, so. Am. I.

Of course, I get distracted.  I get side-tracked.  I, too, forget that if we stripped ourselves of our ethnicity or our inadequacies or our transgressions, we are basically human--soul-bound and struggling to make sense of it all. I, too, forget that we all have needs and wants, and we all pray in some way to be spared from a miserable life, just like the next guy.  Some of us walk away a little more fortunate than others.

But whether our coin was tossed and landed on heads or tails shouldn't matter.  We are called to love.  I don't think it was meant to be that difficult.  We just have this inclination to make it complicated. 

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