I visited with my brother Jim yesterday and, as always when I see him, I left deeply reflecting on life.
“The world,” Helen Keller once said, “is full of suffering; but also, the overcoming of it.”
It is difficult to watch the news and see the horror in the Middle East. There is so much suffering and death there. And yet, people somehow survive it. Refugees walk hundreds of miles, pile their families and a few belongings into small boats to cross treacherous waters in hope of finding safety. They enter strange countries where now they are often unwelcome, mistreated, harmed or sent back to the nightmare they fled. How do they do it? How do they go on? The human spirit, though fragile, often shocks us with its undeterred courage.
And here, in our country, minorities still struggle to be free. Free of discrimination, injustice, abuse, and hate. That our black friends still, after all these years, have to fight for basic rights is a stain on our democracy. Yet, they carry on, and do fight, and stand their ground with dignity and endurance. They keep showing us how small our prejudices make us.
That undocumented Latinos, endlessly waiting on a totally failed process of legalization, are still assumed criminal, seen as job stealers, as welfare beggars, and are threatened with deportation and the breakup of their families, betrays the notion that we are a Christian nation much less a humanitarian one. Yet, they continue to work long hard hours at thankless jobs with low pay and still manage to buy a home, build a solid family, and contribute to their surroundings.
That the LGBT community, after all they have achieved, are nevertheless still often dismissed by the prudish and the narrow-minded as somehow defective and unwanted in society, boggles the mind. How does a nation of thinking people parade such disregard? And yet, our gay friends disgrace those who oppose them by demonstrating determined self-respect, knowing they have nothing to be ashamed of, fully accepting their place in the human family, and making humanity better for their presence.
How do people suffering bigotry, violence, war, shame, cruelty, and hate, keep their sanity, somehow manage to persevere, and do good in the midst of so much bad? I thought of this as I sat with my brother Jim. His suffering is on a different level. But that he has endured it is a tribute to his own stouthearted spirit.
I have no way of knowing the deep hurts inside him, the feelings of loss, the frustration of being in a perpetual state of brokenness. I was given a healthy body by some chance roll of the dice. I cannot, in spite of my sincerest wishes, enter into his pain. And that is my suffering.
Life is so often a mystery. And, in many ways, that is what makes it beautiful. We feel deep anguish from all the heartache we see, here and around the world, and, in the people we love. And when we slow down enough to notice, we are also left breathless at the sheer determination of people to withstand their ordeals, their torments, and afflictions, and to outlast them to the end without bitterness or defeat.
That my brother Jim is in the last stages of an incurable disease has me kneeling before him. That he and so many others in the world suffer on and on, yet nobly, puts things in perspective for me. I bow my head in reverence and praise them.
© 2017 Timothy Moody