The older I get and the more of the world I see I am experiencing a growing sadness. What I perceive is a growing disparity between rich and poor, a quantifying of human life (how much is a single life worth when there are billions to deal with), and an understandable struggle with ‘compassion burn-out’.
The health care discussion seems to be narrowing its focus to the question of cost (which is understandable) but at the same time avoiding the question of human cost. Perceptive people reel at the huge amounts of money needed to care for the poor and there is a legitimate question as to where the money will come from. Economists shake their heads over the national debt and the burden it places on the generations who follow us. Political conflicts in developing nations result in famine and disease and terrible suffering. It really is not surprising people just try and push it all away and take a pill to sleep at night.
I am always heartened when I read articles about individuals who are trying to make a difference even in a small way. None of us have the financial power or prowess of a Bill Gates who can support programs that help whole nations. Most often we feel powerless to understand our own financial needs and I sometimes wonder where I will be should I live another twenty years.
Self-identity is another part of discussions these days. Society tells me that who I am as a person can be defined by what political party I vote. If I am a Republican there are a number of characteristics religious and social, that identify me and the same if I vote as a Democrat. There is a tendency to ‘demonize’ people as unredeemable if a particular bumper sticker appears on their car or a sign shows up in their yard. This is living with blinders. None of us are all one thing or the other.
When asked if I am a conservative or a liberal I find myself wandering all over the page. Sometimes I say I am a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat. Sometimes I am an independent and walk the road between the two parties. I believe firmly in a two party political system, but one of equals where civil discourse and compromise are the ruling precepts. When one party is in overwhelming control, the precepts slip away and legislation is passed because “we can” rather than through discussion and compromise.
Reading history we recognize our days as much like the days preceding the Civil War when the question of states’ rights versus the federal government tore the nation apart. From the time of the framing of the Constitution until the middle of the Twentieth Century the questions that divided the nation continued to simmer and boil. I would shudder to think that the lines being drawn in these days will be a part of the generations who come after.
When I visit with thinking, rational people, (a disappearing commodity it sometimes seems) I end up with the thoughts that I am only one person, but I am one and what I can do for the people who cross my path in my life’s journey I must do. Reading some of the work of Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan brother, I am told that each person is on an individual Spiritual journey. First, I must empty myself of self, and then turn to the One who has shaped who I am to fill me with what is right and good. I learn not to judge, but to simply walk my way and where I can help do what I can. Being open to God cleanses the mind of all that is unnecessary. My journey is mine. I share it with all humanity. We are in this together. The journey is long and difficult, of that there is no doubt, but power, wealth, and greed will not help me through the hard times. It is when I turn a listening ear or reach out my hand to those in need, it is when I lead with my heart I find my direction for the years that lie ahead.