Deep into another WWII novel and Jim Wallis’ Christ in Crisis, I experienced a spontaneous burst of gratitude this morning. With fall in the wings, the nights are cooling down. The daylight hours are growing noticeably shorter, and this morning, there is a nip in the air. Since my friend called to say she couldn’t walk, I set out on my own, heading down our street at the edge of town. Edge of town means houses on one side but open pastureland on the other. The blue cornflowers and white Queen Anne’s lace growing along the fence row sparkled in the sun. The cornfield bordering the alley across the way stood tall and proud, pointing their leaves and tassels toward the sky. Something small inside swelled and grew until it burst into song. ‘It’s a Lovely day today.” But, along with the joy was grief for all who do not have the opportunity to revel in Mother Nature or whose souls are so broken that they cannot appreciate these gifts from Mother Nature.
My WWII novel describes situations in one of the Polish ghettoes while Jim Wallis was responding to the lawyer’s question to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan, Samaritans being the outcast in Jewish society at that time. Who might Jesus cast in that role today? Blacks? Immigrants? LBGTQ individuals? I can just hear it now. “Now there was a man who was going from Baltimore to Washington when carjackers attacked him, throwing him out of the car and leaving him hurt and wounded in an abandoned junkyard. Even though he managed to crawl to the side of the road, cars whizzed by, refusing to help. Then, a trans stopped to see if he could help. We all know the end of the story. The outcast not only takes the man to the local hospital but also offers to pay his medical bills and find housing and shelter for him. At the end of the story, Jesus asks all of us, “Who was neighbor to the injured man?”
This story, along with the account of Jesus telling the rich young ruler to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor and come and follow me, trouble me because they confront my innate selfishness and embedded fears. I am reminded of a banner we had at church, which pictured three crosses with all sorts of images of modern life and the saying, “No one said it would be easy.”
My morning walk was another reminder that, of all people, I am much blessed. Listening to the news primarily when I am in the car reminds me that many do not have the safe, secure life that is min. I am constantly reminded that this good life that is mine is not of my making but of the accident of birth and good fortune. Gratitude, I suspect, is a poor substitute for selling all I have and giving it to the poor or stepping out of my comfort zone to radically help someone who is seen as “the other,” but it’s a start. Perhaps if I am grateful enough, God will bring those people to me whom he wants me to help. After all, much as we may try, none of us live in isolation. Opportunities to become our better selves come to us every day.
And so, on this absolutely beautiful morning, I find myself praying, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”