I received this in an e-mail recently, one of those wheezy, think about-the-other-guy forwards that looks as innocuous as it does "nice".
Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.
Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love If you send this to 5 people then you have a chance to make 5 people smile. You won't get any wish for material things however you might just find a piece of serenity and the warmth of God's touch. .
Seems harmless enough? (Though I wonder who writes this stuff, and how it finds its way all around the world. And why 5? Shouldn't something good be shared with more than that?) Well, let Mr. Perpetual Curmudgeon (PC) have a crack at this.
All through history, there have been plenty of things one could point at and say "whoa, that's a very bad idea." I could easily list a few right now, but I will focus on just one. Our society has fairly recently started to evaluate human life based on the perceived contributions/merit of the individual. Those of you old enough to remember "Values Clarification" (which was hardly clarification, since there were certainly right and wrong answers, but "Values Indoctrination" would have had a harder time getting past school boards) remember the famous Lifeboat study, where you were in a short-rationed lifeboat with a nun, a pregnant woman, a doctor who was on the verge of curing cancer and some other saintly characters, and had to decide whom to pitch overboard. The obvious (and "correct") answer was "you" were the one to go. Your life had less value than all the others, so you should die. No, in reality virtually no one applies this standard to themselves, but certainly applies it to others.
So, now we have murder trials where the family of the victim is dragged out, gushing tears, describing how their lives have been shattered by their loss. I certainly empathize with those who lose a loved one, and also realize the world would be a better place if some people were no longer here. But to institutionalize the policy that this murder is more heinous than that murder because this victim was a stalwart father of three and this one sold drugs is wrong. Every life should be equally precious to the state, whose job it is to be the sole administrator of justice. Some murders are not worse than others because of the "value" of the victims.
So, this little tale above offers us the thought that the jerk, the slattern, the bum, the aged may have more going on in their lives than we know. I say "So what?" They are valued by God equally, whether the are comfortable suburban moms with a big car and kids in private school or single moms struggling with too little money and too much bill. So then, should they be valued by us.
And their struggles, concerns, or anxieties do not excuse bad behavior. This is another idea floating around since the 60s, and one that does not work. If someone behaves badly, their behavior, not the motivations, causes, and inner mental states, is what is important. I recognize this oversimplifies a very complicated scenario, but someone who acts boorishly should be reprimanded regardless of their situation. No excuses. No "I'm having a bad day!" shrieks. We all have bad days; how much is to be forgiven on those bad days? And if on those days, then why not on all? What is wrong is wrong, regardless of how "stressed" we were when we did it.
No, we need to reject the contents of this prayer for two reasons. All God's children are equally important to Him, and thus should be to me. The nun is no more valuable, no more loved, no more elevated than the pedophile. And the excuse of fear, worry, or trouble excusing sin has to go. If you do wrong, don't explain or shirk. Take the blame, and go forward. Indeed, open our hearts to all humanity. The prayer ends there.
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