Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Charity and Justice

Charles Dickens said:  "Charity begins at home and justice begins next door."

Most people would assume that charity and justice are things that should be done outside of the home, focusing on the needs of others who are less fortunate than those in their inner circle.  Dickens statement, however, challenges us to see each relationship in our life as an opportunity to bless others and show the love of our Creator through our actions.  If we cannot expressly show love to those we interact with the most, how are we going to extend love to strangers?  If I cannot show kindness and tolerance in judging those I work or live with, I am losing a valuable witness to those I spend the most time with. 

By taking the time to extend grace, mercy, forgiveness, and understanding to those I am closest to, I am building up my heart muscles to do the same for strangers I meet on the street.  I need to train myself to be attentive to the needs of others, to consider the consequences my actions will have on them, to seek the best for them.  If I can train myself to extend mercy to those I see on a daily basis, I will then have the capacity to seek justice in the lives of others.  When I have practiced being attentive to the other's needs, it will naturally extend to my neighbors and community members. Justice, then, will not be a particular crusade but a lifestyle of seeking the best for my society.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Les Miserables and The Power of Dignity

Three days ago I was finally able to watch Les Miserables in the theater.  I was looking forward to the cultural experience I would gain from watching the movie but I was unprepared for the core value that was struck during the viewing.  Watching the movie I was enraged that human beings could be treated so poorly, with no forgiveness or chance for redemption offered by the community or political system.  It made my blood boil to watch Fantine be shunned by her community.  My blood pressure spiked when people refused to even be in the same room with a woman who could possibly have a "soiled" reputation.  

The one word that Father has kept burning on my heart since watching the movie is DIGNITY.  Les Mis highlighted the indignity of treating people only as flesh and bones, of refusing to forget the past, of refusing to acknowledge people can change and overcome their mistakes.  I was heartbroken when Fantine's first "customer" used her and then threw money in her face.  After using her this man could no longer acknowledge her humanity, and thus felt she no longer needed basic respect or manners.
This week I've been thinking about the inherent dignity that comes with calling people by their name.  Javert commonly called Jean Valjean 24601, his prison number, as opposed to his name.  By calling Valjean a number Javert clearly stated the power differential between himself, the prison guard, and the prisoner.  Javert was able to use and abuse prisoners when calling them by their prison number, by distancing himself from their  humanity.  I loved Jean Valjean's journey to maturity in the movie because he intentionally calls the characters he encounters by their name as often as possible.

I feel that through this movie Dad has revealed a simple yet profound lesson to me.  Treating people with dignity by calling them by their name is the most powerful thing that I can do because dignity can be conveyed in a short time frame.  I might not have the time or ability to truly pour into a person's life, but I can show them dignity and His love by treating them with kindness, remembering their name, and loving on them as best as I can under the circumstances.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Haerbin Snow and Ice Festival

Last month I traveled with a group of friends to Northern China, along the boarder of Siberia. 
After taking an overnight train we arrived in Haerbin and were able to see amazing works of art at the annual Snow and Ice Festival.  


I created this blog as a vehicle to share what I am learning from those around me in my current cross-cultural setting.  Daily I interact with many amazing people who challenge me to see the world in a new perspective, to stretch my methods of thinking about a particular situation.  My hope is that I can share some of the wisdom I am gaining from my friends with you all.