"for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,"
Arguably Covid-19 has opened our eyes more to the reality that we are never in full control of the circumstances we may find ourselves in from day to day. Hopefully we have grown in compassion and generosity towards the needs of one another, yet lack and scarcity can bring us back to grasping for our equilibrium, a sense of control, security. Most of us, particularly in western culture, have been wired to be independent, and oftentimes find ourselves questioning or judging the needs of others. The debates are endless on the “right” way to help a homeless person, the effectiveness of governmental support programs, and when is the appropriate time to help someone for just about anything.
I was reminded of two Disney scenes. The first, the seagulls of Finding Nemo squawking, “mine, mine, mine,” and the second of Queen Elspeth in Snow White looking in the mirror anxiously asking, “Who is the fairest of them all.” As humans, particularly if we grew up in an independent culture, we are prone to both - not only is what I have mine, but I want to have more than anyone else. We are prone to give when we deem something or someone as worthy and when our own perceived needs are met. There is a slippery slope to selfishness that disables us from seeing and engaging in the needs of others, what is the antidote?
Imagine that Queen Elspeth looked in the mirror, she saw herself along with every other human. She asked a different question, “Who among us is worthy?” Quickly she realizes the depth of her question and continues speaking, “Who among us is in need? Help me to see what you see.” After some time, she puts the mirror down and begins to weep. Her eyes have finally perceived the commonality of humanity and she begins to use her hands and feet.
Art: Katie Wigglesworth | (Untitled) | woven stranded copper wire | 2021
Practice: Cole Arthur Riley on Empathy
Read and pray Cole Arthur Riley's liturgy for true empathy (click here).