This post isn’t about books; it’s about something else. But you probably guessed that from the title. I watched an episode of The Daily Show the other night, when Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai was being interviewed and it struck me that this victim of the Taliban wasn’t even willing to lower herself to throw a shoe at her tyrannical oppressors. Even faced with death, Malala was willing to give them love. So as I sit here considering Malala and the current events in Washington, it occurs to me that throwing anger into those flames wouldn’t be any different from Malala throwing her shoe at the Taliban. So here goes, a rare rant from me …
I hate labels. So if you ask me whether I’m a Christian or a Democrat, an Atheist or a Republican, I’ll have no answer. I’m a person who believes there is something bigger than us out there, but what it is I don’t know and don’t need to know with any certitude. I’m OK calling it God, but I won’t give it a face or a name beyond that. All I know is this: to rest easy at night, I am compelled to follow the religion I was born with, and to stay true to the values I believe make me a wholesome, productive and nurturing member of society. Politically, you might think I am the D word, but I’m not. I once thought I was the R word, but I’m not. And what I’ve come to know is this: Most of us do not define ourselves by one of these factions. We’re just ordinary people who care about the world we live in. Most of us vote according to our hearts, not according to party platform. But some of us do. This note isn’t directed at those people, because they are zealots and won’t listen anyway. They have their own dogma, and they will maintain that dogma above all else and at all cost. No, I’m talking to the rest of you, friend to friend.
It doesn’t matter to me if our beliefs are different, so long as we both hold the same principle in mind: that love be at the heart of all our motives. Not fear. I realize that’s not always easy to do, especially when there is the threat of starvation–of families going without because of the actions of a handful of zealots, of fathers and mothers going without work, children going without cancer treatment and single mothers without help to feed their children. And no, despite what people think, the majority of these people are not simply looking for handouts.
I once overheard a fellow mother outside the kindergarten door, while we were waiting for our children. She was fretting over the fact that they were about to turn off her electricity. She had a little money, but needed to go to the grocery store. I didn’t know her very well, but I wondered if she were saying it for my benefit, because I drove a nice car and my son wore brand new shoes. I decided it didn’t matter, because I’d already heard it and couldn’t in all good conscience walk away. So I took out a $20 bill and gave it to her discreetly. She didn’t want it, so I insisted, and decided then and there that I didn’t care if she ever paid me back. But one week later, she shyly returned the $20 bill and thanked me profusely, the look in her eyes full of gratitude. She said, “We ate very well this week. You wouldn’t believe how much I can buy for $20 bucks.” I thought about my $700 grocery bill and told her that maybe she should teach me how to shop.
In the end, you can fan the flames of anger, or you can consider how easily the turn of luck might have put you in different shoes. There have been times in my own life that I teetered on the brink, and yes, hard work brought me back. Pride kept me from asking for help, but screw pride. Truly. If it had been my daughter in those shoes, my son–or even your daughter or son–I would hope they would speak up and ask for help. And more than that, I would hope those around them would love their neighbor enough to want to give it. Isn’t that the Christian way? So this is my heartfelt request to my dear friends … please examine your motives before posting, before voting, before deciding what you believe. If it’s motivated at its core by fear, walk away. If it’s motivated by love, stand by it with all your heart. I’ll do the same, because I’m pretty sure John Lennon was dead right: Love is all you need. That’s all.