Over the years, people have done some breathtakingly generous things that have helped me and my family. The simple fact of life as that as much as the concept of the self-made man (or woman) is attractive and holds some value, it’s also very limiting.
When I was unemployed and needed a car to have a job, a very kind gentleman I’ll never forget stepped forward and made that happen. (His last name, fittingly enough, was Nobles.) When I was sick a few years back, the people who stepped forward, from my wife and my work partner outward, were amazing in their kindness and generosity.
I’ve tried to pay that back and forward over the years in a number of ways. If someone does you a kindness, you have an obligation to extend a similar kindness outward. For me, that all stems from a God who, in spite of my shortcomings (and they are legion), still longs for a relationship with me and loves me. If he, who is perfect and mighty, extends that kind of love to me, who am I to do otherwise?
For me that means my obligation to try to be positive extends beyond the boundaries of those who wish me well.
In other words, if you disagree with me vehemently about almost anything, I’ll still do my best to be decent to you. If you think I’m a stooge of the Communists who want to take the country over, that applies to you. Same if you look at my continued Republican affiliation and think I’m just a fascist, racist, sexist bastard.
It even means…and it’s hard for me to say this…I’ll help you out if your biggest desire in life is to remind everyone how many championships the Yankees have won.
I’m not perfect at this. Some might even say I’m not competent at it. But I do my best and I’m sorry when I, like everyone else, fall short.
That brings me to last week’s attempted coup. Some of the people who stormed the Capitol were trying to kill members of Congress. The woman who was shot and died was trying to invade a hallway where members of the House stood just moments before. They weren’t trying to break in for a Congressional tickle party.
I don’t understand how you can support that. I don’t understand how you can look at what happened and say it was justified or exaggerated or no big deal. I don’t understand. And I’ll argue against you vigorously.
And to be honest, I probably won’t like you very much; the feeling will probably be mutual.
But if you’re broken down in a rainstorm some night, I won’t go flying past you because of the bumper sticker on your car. If you’re feeling pained and alone because life crapped on you, I won’t rub salt in your wound. I’ll do my best to see you as a child of God.
Justice must be served over what happened last week. Those who broke laws must face justice. But beyond that, if we start withholding basic human kindnesses from those we oppose, we’re moving away from the ideal.
To be clear, I’m not advocating that we have to agree with people, concede to them, or meet their needs at the point of their definition. We should never justify those whose footprint on the world leaves an impression of hatred, selfishness, or harm to others.
In my world, God loves them, too. And that means I need to try.
Jesus said to love my neighbor. He didn’t say to like, honor, give into, grovel before, or validate them. It certainly doesn’t mean you get to punch me in the face, then become a victim when I don’t treat you like my best friend.
So I’ll try to do my best even when I don’t want to. I’ll accept that I’ll fall short and apologize where appropriate. I’ve been angry over the past five days, so I’ve probably fallen short a few times. And I’m not quite where Sarah Silverman is, but her stance is something to consider.
I’ve been the other before–and not without justification. And I knew I had to change. Without the possibility for vindication, change is pointless.
Justice must be done, but vindication must be possible.