The phone rang again and again. Faiza kept stopping mid-stitch to answer. I overheard the worried tones and the grief that was apparent even though I couldn’t understand the language being spoken. “There was a bombing in my hometown today,” she told me. “People injured, scared, killed. I’m trying to find out if all of my family there is still okay.”
Later, another friend requested prayer because his family was in a village surrounded by a rebel militia who was threatening to massacre everyone in that village who was of a particular ethnicity. The burden of the worry was heavy upon him as there was nothing he could do – or any of us could do – to rescue this village full of people on the brink of death.
Now when I wake up in the morning, my mind is often full of the news of what’s happening across the ocean. The violence occurring in distant locales now feels very close to me because my dear friends have family in those places. The scariness of the world seems so more personal then it used to, as the wars and riots tearing apart countries affect people that I know.
I don’t really like the “Life is Good” slogan anymore. I just can’t rep that sentiment any more. The world IS more grim, more terrifying, more violent and uncertain than most of us in the West realize. Yet the heaviness of the knowledge of the world’s suffering that I now carry, I carry in solidarity with those who have actually lived through it. Through them, I’m learning that life is short, hard, painful for so many.
If I turn a blind eye now and seek to burrow back into the peace and prosperity of America, I’ll also have to sacrifice part of my humanity and compassion.
In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher reminds us that, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” I believe this now. There’s so much in Americans’ pursuit of pleasure that is worthless and empty and that blinds us to what is truly important. It is in the blessing of grief and discomfort that propels us to move beyond self to instead “Love our neighbor as ourselves.”
And so this holiday, I invite you to share some of the world’s heaviness and take on the blessing of discomfort. The following is based on a Franciscan blessing:
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so you work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that through Him, you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
You might ask, how? How can I make this change? That, my friends, is a subject of another blog post. Stay tuned for that. But in the meantimes, share your story. What experience or book or friendship caused you to begin to see the world with new eyes of compassion and care? Send us a note at info (at) personagratagoods (dot) com.