The wrong idea has taken root in the world. And the idea is this: there just might be lives out there that matter less than other lives.
We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.
Kinship— not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.
Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.” Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice— we would be celebrating it.
Mary Oliver writes, “There are things you can’t reach. But you can reach out to them, and all day long.”
An Algerian monk, threatened with death, says to those who will inflict it: “What do we have to fear after all? To be thrown into the tenderness of God?” That’s certainly where I want to be, even if on most days the fear seems to triumph.
Yes, the wheat dies, but check out the fruit. Sure there is pain in childbirth, but here’s this kid. Who’s still looking at the ashes, once the phoenix has risen? You’re always on the lookout for fates worse than death, and it turns out, there are a slew of them.
Death has no power. Easy for me to say. There is much self-protection in saying it, however, otherwise you fear actually losing your mind. Annie Dillard writes, “So once in Israel, love came to us incarnate and stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.”
You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.