The Times Demand It

Two WayAs Hurricane Irma struck St. Thomas this year, the staff of a small nursing home worked furiously to prepare the dozen tenants in residence. In spite the staff’s heroic efforts, however, the building soon shuddered beneath the storm’s fury.

Water began rising inside, the building’s doors were sucked away, and the rooftop eventually went airborne altogether. Left without electricity, communications, clear roadways, or means of evacuation, both workers and patients were left largely unprotected.

Then, four teenage boys arrived to help: Detainees of a juvenile detention center located next door. The boys quickly began moving the non-ambulatory out of the flooded portions of the building and they sheltered their elders with their own bodies, keeping glass and ceiling tiles from falling on them.

When the storm had passed, the young men continued to sit in the dark, comforting and holding the hands of the residents. Kimberly Born-Verneck, director of the detention center, was moved to tears as she told their story, as she was so proud of these boys “who had been written off” by most. They were good neighbors, showing activated compassion, when the time demanded it.

I suppose we sell most people short these days, categorizing them as quickly as we meet them, if not before. It’s contrary to what Sly Stone sang all those years ago: “Love me; hate me; know me and then; you can’t figure out the bag I’m in.” But we figure out the bag immediately, and if others aren’t in our tribe, we stuff them away without them giving a chance.

Politics. Religion. Ethnicity. Skin color. Nationalism. Economics. The lines of demarcation are many. And within these broader categories, there are countless micro-divisions, as zealotry guts our society of decency. Today, people are so polarized, so fixated in their opinions, that we would rather support an absolute philistine if he is “one of our own,” than cooperate with others of goodwill who are outside our ideological comfort zone.

We retreat into ungrounded fears instead of seeking to understand those whom we have judged as inferior. We so prefer our insular view of the world, that we cannot bring ourselves to extend or accept common kindness from those we have “written off,” even when these are the very ones who could help us.

The reasons for much of this separatist behavior can be traced to the isolation that comes from our technologies; from the sectarian, tribal splintering that runs parallel with an ever-shrinking world. But I cannot overlook a proverb by Jesus, a single mandate that could go a long way in restoring civility, common sense, kindness – just needful conversation – to our society.

He said, golden words many of us were taught as children, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Is this the answer – simple as it is – to all our division, animus, and rancor? No, I’m not so naive, but it would be a good place to start, and the times demand it.

5 Comments on “The Times Demand It

  1. Ronnie, I love your writing and messages. They are deep, thoughtful and meaningful as are your services. My wife Carrie & I have attended A Simple Faith off & on over the past 24 months, going back to when you were located in Sea Grove. We moved to Watersound 14 months ago from Houston, TX and have been in search of a new church. We spend summers in Northern Wisconsin (Minocqua), where we are closer to Carrie’s family and a beautiful North woods Lake community that we love. It’s affectionately called “God’s Country”.

    When we returned to A Simple Faith this Oct. during the service we say hi to our neighbors and offer them the peace of Christ, I introduced myself by name and mentioned that we were snowbirds, but FL is our primary residence. We are trying to meet other locals. The response of the older lady I introduced myself to shocked me. Her reply to my snowbird comment was, “Well, at least you’re not a snowflake”. I laughed the comment off, as I did not know what the term meant; however, my wife Carrie did and later told me. WOW. Aside from being insulting, she was dead wrong and extremely presumptive in her opinion. Her flip comment was a totally uncalled for remark and the exact opposite of what I believe A Simple Faith is aiming to be and what Christ would teach; to love one another. That woman’s thoughtless comment, is what I believe is wrong with the folks on the Christian Right. Their extreme, interpretive views or opinions, I believe are sadly what is destroying Christianity and the Church today. It’s exclusive, not inclusive. They act as though they have not sinned. Really? We have not returned to A Simple Faith service since that day. We are now attending Point Washington UMC. I know that you personally cannot control the words, thoughts or actions of others and they do not reflect A Simple Faith’s belief system. But in the case of this woman, your message is falling on deaf ears. She needs what you are teaching most. I wanted you to know this. May the Peace of Christ be with you always.

    Jeffrey Hoye Watersound, FL

    (713) 204-4616 jwhoye@mac.com

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  2. Kindness, tolerance, understanding – why is it so difficult for us? We must be continuously encouraged. Thank you for being our shepherd.

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