Once again, life has gotten in the way of intentions. I’ve been tired and sore, worn out from all my goings on, and I’m afraid something had to give. There are things I’ve wanted to do that I just haven’t been able to* – this past Thursday, for instance, I planned to go to my stepmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I had shot a wedding earlier that day, which was an excellent use of my time, I thought, but by the time it was over, everything hurt, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was even a bit nauseous, making eating something I probably wouldn’t have appreciated, despite the fact that it would have been good. Frustrating, that. It could be the time of the year – I tend to have less energy as the light of the days grows shorter – it could be my regular job, it could be the constantly shifting weather. It could, of course be my own health, a temporary downturn, which is also not unusual. Focus on the “temporary.” Nonetheless, I opted to sleep rather than write last Saturday, and last Sunday, well, I still had no energy. On the up side, I now desperately need to do laundry. Hmm, guess that’s not much of an up side, is it? Well anyway, I know what I’m doing after breakfast today.
On the 20th of this month, I got a call while I was at work, early in my day. My aunt, my father’s oldest sister, had passed. It wasn’t unexpected, she’d been ill, but it was still difficult. I spent the rest of my day in a fog. I really don’t remember much of what I did. I only knew that there was a possibility I would have to take time off for a funeral, and it would be an all-day affair. It was yesterday, the 28th, a day I already had scheduled off. The occasion was both sad and joyous, a celebration of a life well-lived, and a congregation of family members, some of whom I hadn’t seen since I learned to drive. We’re planning to go to the Festival of Lights at the zoo tonight, my first cousin and first cousin once removed and I. She’s my age, the younger one. Actually, she’s older.ˆ My cousin has her camera, so that should be fun. I think you know by now how much I enjoy sharing that experience.
After hearing about my aunt, my mind went to a dark place. Not a bad one, just dark. I had little energy for the things I wanted to do, including write. I didn’t have the reaction I usually have when I’m ready to write. Normally when I wake up in the morning, I have a song in my head. A fragment, a hook, a refrain, or even the whole thing, if I’m lucky. On the mornings I plan to write, though, I have words. The ideas flow through like water, a stream of consciousness, and I have to somehow catch it. That didn’t happen last week.
The plan was to riff on a sermon I’d heard the previous week, presented by a guest pastor† at my church. It was about enough; he called the practice “enoughism.” The gist is that we divide what we have, our belongings, our food, our water, our finances, not so that everyone is the same, but so that everyone has at least enough. It’s somewhere between socialism and the free market system, although I’m sure there are plenty who would gladly argue how it truly is one or the other, passionately defending their positions. Passion is great, but it means nothing without valid information, and that is nearly impossible to find if you won’t listen to any opinion but your own.
He talked about justice, about love, and about enough. He explained how, in his mind, justice is love, and love, justice. Now on the surface, that seems a bit harsh. Here’s the thing, though: He differentiated types of justice. The type we’re accustomed to in the US, and in many parts of the world, really, is retributive. The goal is to punish whomever we determine to be in the wrong. It’s of precious little benefit to anyone – the wrongdoer has no other options because he has no other skills once he’s been released, depending on the type of crime, the job market is significantly narrower already, and even among those jobs he could have, many simply will not hire him. That doesn’t give anyone a chance to make good, to change their ways, to become someone better. It happens, sure, but just as with the child who pulls herself from abject poverty to become someone special, it’s rare. So very rare.
The justice he meant is distributive justice. It’s the type of justice he believes Jesus meant. Not that everyone should have the same, but that they should have enough. Working a full week for 40 hours should give that worker enough to live on, to eat, to have a roof over their heads, to put clothes on their backs, and maybe even have some to put aside for a rainy day. Making sure someone has enough, that is a show of love, of kindness, of humanity. Justice is love, and love, justice.
How I see it takes it a step further. If there is a person who is homeless, who is hungry, who has all but given up, that person needs more than food or shelter or clothing, that person needs to know that she is a person. We are social creatures; this is something that we as human beings should be doing. We take care of those who can’t take care of themselves, lift those of our tribe who have fallen, carry them with us rather than leave them behind. Once they are no longer a part of our tribe, though, they become “Them,” and no longer worthy of our support. Our tribes have grown, not only in size, but number. It’s a large, scary place, this world, and it’s easy to be afraid. Once we allow that to take over, once we permit fear to make our decisions, then we also allow the ostracization of those who we fear are no longer “Us.” The “Them” has increased as our world expands. People in our own country, our own states, our own neighborhoods, don’t have enough, and because they are now “Them,” they likely never will. And that, I think, is a great tragedy.
*I had a side note, but then I got distracted with something else, and I forgot what my tangent was going to be.
Yep, I had to make a footnote for that.
^Six whole months, sure, but that counts!