Belonging in a bundle of life
It dawned on me this morning as I glanced online at the generous fall forecast for the week ahead how much people have been through due to the actual and metaphorical storms of life in the last month. And we have prayed, both individually and corporately for the recovery of peace in the lives of those who have faced disruption and loss, or even chaos, in the wake created by Fiona, tangible inflation, fear of being cold this winter, closing hospitals and Covid, amoung other personal disasters.
And God has delivered compassion. Not by some whimsical Hallmark angel. Or some other symbol. Or in a miracle that proves God is alive and well. But in real people. People saving others by delivering something they need. People who have cared and shared. Emotionally, practically, or spiritually or financially. All of us can all think of someone who has responded and who has delivered the gift of compassion this past month. Sometimes to those "perfect strangers" we love to talk about. Or maybe you have been the messenger of God's love, perhaps without even knowing your smile or other simple gesture made a difference to someone. Or maybe like me, and in greater ways my son-in-law Nick who has been hospitalized, this has been a month you have needed and been the recipient of compassion many times over.
It dawned on me this morning how I needed to return to God, for myself and as an intercessor, to genuinely acknowledge God's saving action in response to all of our prayers. Calling on God, to have God deliver, and not returning to God feels like an interruption in my relationship, not only with the divine, but with everyone and everything else. But this return to thank God is not transactional. God gives, and we are obligated to give thanks for God's compassion. No. It doesn't feel like a choice, it's more like a connection with the divine that feels incomplete without it. It's a spiritual practice.
There is a Zulu proverb called Ubuntu. The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained it this way, "Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human...We say, "Hey, so and so has ubuntu. Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught us, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons."
He continues, "A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, (which makes me think of those precious and surprising qualities in Jesus of Nazareth) affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurances that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than they are."
Theologian Matthew Fox defines compassion as the praxis of our inter-connectedness. Whether we like it or not, we are connected to people everywhere by divine design. We are connected to the creatures and the very earth we dwell on. Everything we do matters, one way or another.
May we continue to practice compassion with people, creatures, and our earth.