No respecter of class, color, education, or experience…
People recovering from addiction are familiar with this phrase. We have intimate knowledge that our disease affects people from all walks of life, regardless of economic status, racial heritage, political stance, or sexual orientation. We gather in our diversity to face the challenge of restoration, releasing our pride and division to embrace new strength together. Many a time, as I’ve stood in the closing circle of a Twelve Step meeting reciting The Lord’s Prayer, I have felt an overwhelming communion of humanness.
I recall some words from the classic Bible scholar, William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. He was analyzing the famous story of the ten lepers who implore Jesus for healing, a mixed-race group of wandering sufferers. Most sermons on the passage focus on the rarity of gratitude, the fact that only one leper returned to thank Jesus for healing him. Barclay uncovers another aspect.
“Here is a great law of life. A common misfortune had broken down racial and national barriers. In the common tragedy of their leprosy, these men had forgotten they were Jews and Samaritans and remembered only that they were men in need. If a flood surges over a piece of country and the wild animals congregate for safety on some little bit of higher ground, you will find standing peacefully together animals that are natural enemies and at any other time would do their best to kill each other. Surely one of the things which should draw all people together is their common need of God.”
Yes, a great law of life! And it applies not only to facing calamities like the COVID-19 pandemic that recently swept over our planet. Our common humanity spans the entire breadth of our shared experience: birth, childhood, the pangs of adolescence, the stirrings of love, the bonds of family and friendship. Laughter, tears, and longings. Asking big questions; getting mired in minutia. The inexorable forces of time and aging.
All these, yes, but also our endless warring and division. Our tribalism that continues to fracture humankind and the planet itself. As anthropologist Lawrence Keeley said in this book War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, “Our common humanity, viewed realistically, can be as much a source of despair as hope.”
Given this duality, I will always choose hope. I will continue to pray that someday we will rise up, shake off our primordial animosities, and embrace a unity that transcends divisions. I wrote about this plea in my book, Invitation to The Overview.
Many of you reading these words have echoed the same question. When will we fully awaken to our shared journey on this fragile vessel called Earth?
Throughout three decades as a pastor, I ministered to people through all the vicissitudes of life. Aging and death were part of my daily rounds, especially when I worked as a Hospice chaplain.
But as we all know, firsthand experience with loved ones is often the most poignant reminder of life’s brevity.
On April 13, 2021, I flew to Las Vegas to be with my mother on her 89th birthday. The day after I arrived, she took a fall that fractured her hip. I’m grateful I was there to help her and my father, and every day as I spent time in her hospital room, we discussed memories from our past.
She spoke of holding me on her lap while sitting on the stoop of their apartment in Seattle, Washington, awaiting my dad’s return from graduate school. Our eyes met, and the passage of time was so compressed that it took my breath away. I saw in her face that foreshadow of what awaits us all.
Later that evening, a friend of my parents from their church sent a simple message of encouragement: “May God’s comfort be with both of you as we experience morality together.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
We. Are. Experiencing. Mortality. Together.
Let’s join hands and hearts to support each other with love and grace!