I wish you bad luck from time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice.
I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.
I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.
I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.
And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.
I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.
Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.
The least of these are the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, and the oppressed. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Jesus taught us that when we help those in need, we are helping Him. He also taught that we should love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This means that we should love, regardless of social status.
In the Bible, there are many examples of people who showed compassion for the least of these. For example, the Good Samaritan helped a man who had been beaten and robbed, even though he was a stranger to him (Luke 10:25-37). Ruth took care of her mother-in-law, Naomi, even though she was a widow from a foreign land (Ruth 1:16-18). And Job showed compassion for the poor and needy, even though he had lost everything himself (Job 29:12-16).
When we show compassion for the least of these, we are following the example of Jesus and obeying His commands. We are also making the world a better place.
It is necessary “to rise above the advocacy role when faced with conflicting dualities and ‘stand apart from our narrow perspectives … to see the larger picture more clearly.’”
There is the strong tendency when encountering conflicts to immediately take sides, join battle, and “resolve” the conflict, rather than take the time to perceive and analyze the important values on both sides of the conflict.1
Spader, Dean J., “Rule of Law vs Rule of Man: The Search for The Golden ZigZag Between Conflicting Fundamental Values,” Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 12. Pp. 379-394 (1984) (Internal citations omitted.) ↩
“Song for Justice” is a stand-alone version of a movement from the large-scale work “Tuvayhun – Beatitudes for a Wounded World.” That is what my faith teaches, to come along side a wounded world with beatitudes.
These lyrics follows Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Jacob L. Moreno introduced the phrase cultural conserve to describe anything that has the effect of preserving valuable cultural memories, such as skills, discoveries, concepts, or moral values. Culture is conserved by culture carriers, that is, those who carry something forward from one generation to the next.
One way culture is conserved is tradition. Tradition is acknowledging that I have a history. Tradition is acknowledging that for hundreds and hundreds of years before I existed, people existed before me. Those people, like me, wanted to flourish and to a large degree wanted to promote human flourishing.
To promote human flourishing they created customs and beliefs, created or accumulated tools, and bought and maintained property. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a remembrance of something good or noble. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a warning or reminder that some things are bad. These traditions are what make my most intimate community. It is the songs we sing, the dances we dance, the food we eat, and the way we support and care for one another.
To break with tradition is a contemplative act. To some extent, I have to say to myself and others that I have figured something out or been enlightened in some way that they were not. Rather than an act of hubris, breaking with tradition is an act of humility. It is saying to the many that came before me that I somehow got it more right than they did.
But for there to be a place for tradition, culture carriers have to do just that. Culture carriers have to meaningfully examine which parts of the culture, which traditions, they will carry forward into the next generation. To refuse to carry forward no culture is to unhinge from the generations upon generations that did carry forward their part for human flourishing. It is choosing unnecessary suffering and death for this generation.
There is a place for tradition. To choose tradition does not mean that we have to keep the bad along with the good. We can choose to carry forward the tradition that promotes human flourishing and leave the rest to history.
It was unseasonally cold this morning so I put on the socks Eason gave me.
The story of the socks started with a summer phone call. I answered. It was Eason.
“Hey Brandon, what size shoes do you wear?”
“10, sometimes 10 and a-half,” I replied.
“Great! Talk to you later,” Eason said and hung up.
It was a typical phone call with Eason. Our friendship had transcended pleasantries. I did puzzle on why he wanted to know my shoes size, but I soon forgot about it and moved on with the next phone call, the next paper, the next person.
That Christmas Eve, my doorbell rang. When I opened the door Eason handed me a Bass Pro Shop sack and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!” Not a gift bag. A sack. And in the bottom of the sack were three pairs of Redhead socks. Eason was almost giddy to let me know that the socks have a lifetime warranty.
I am certain that Eason discovered the socks while looking for duck hunting gear. They are warm like socks you would want in a duck blind and comfortable like socks you can wear for hours without complaint.
Eason died many years ago now. I have taken advantage of the warranty and replaced the original socks twice. No wonder, I wear them during all the cold months. My wife and daughter wear them on really cold days. What a gift!
I want to leave a sock legacy. Like Eason, I want to leave something for others that is protective and comforting. Something that, once given, will last them the entirety of their life.