Published on September 20th, 2013 | by J.R. Baldwin1
Whom Would Kindness Kill More: Them or You?
“Today I told off a cashier who was trashing the president” read the Daily Kos headline. Color me intrigued; I clicked on it. I read it. I cried (figuratively).
The writer was just a member of the site, not an official writer, and proudly stated how he actively listens to progressive radio and keeps up on current events via The Nation and Mother Jones. He apologetically admitted he grocery shopping at Meijer (not sure why, but now I know they’re “Michigan owned, .. unionized and ha[ve] a very respectable selection of organic produce as well as locally baked breads.”)
He described the cashier as an older white woman who “looked like she’d had a hard life.” The writer, a self-described “very political person,” says he “often feel[s] bad when I see older people still working when, in a just society, they shouldn’t have to. Obviously I don’t know her story but there she was checking and bagging groceries, a job which keeps you on your feet for hours on end, at 8:30 on a Friday night.”
That was a poignant moment for the writer. He feels a bit of compassion for this woman. But he doesn’t act on that compassion when he hears the older woman say, “Of course Obama says there’s no inflation. I don’t think the man has ever had to buy groceries in his life. He probably gets his employees to do it for him. You know, buy his arugula?”
First comment: I had to look up arugula. It’s a salad green.
Second comment: It’s a silly connection to make between inflation and greens, but nothing inflammatory. The woman’s point is that Obama is an elitist. An elitist is not someone who is well-off financially; it’s anyone who thinks they know better than you, and worse, wants to make you follow their plan, and not allow for deviation. Progressive liberals can be elitists. So can Republicans. So can Independent voters. It’s a personality trait, usually associated with ambitious people, and not a party line. Obama fits that definition; individual health care mandate, anyone?
The author felt differently:
My anger was building up to a boil; I mean, I just wanted to get home to that beer and who knows how many people before me had to hear this crap? So after I was all paid up and everything was in my cart I said to her, “I suggest you keep your political opinions to yourself when you’re standing there because you never know who’s standing here. I don’t appreciate hearing my president trashed like that. That’s all I’m going to say.” Her eyes flashed with anger and realization that I must be one of “those people”. She drew in a breath, about to say something and I said, “If you say one more fucking thing I’ll go find your manager and all three of us can discuss this.” At that, she suddenly deflated. Now the look in her eyes was fear. She looked down and meekly mumbled “Ok. Sorry sir.” I left then, proud of myself and still full of anger.
After that, the author felt a twinge of remorse and wondered if he had handled that poorly. He says he realizes she’s probably just a low information voter, only listening to conservative media, like Rush and Sean (verses only reading and listening to liberal media outlets), and then he threatened her job. But he’s glad he spoke his mind; he only wonders if he could have handled that encounter better.
Ahem. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to comfort the afflicted, and this is not limited to the physically sick. They can be spiritually sick. Or those who just lack good manners. I miss the old ladies who would keep order by calling the naughty child’s parents. If you’re a TV Producer, here’s an idea for a much-needed reality series: Miss Manners takes to the streets!
Comfort is more than sharing a meal or a beer or a laugh. It means firmly and gently showing people the way. Whether it be a friend giving advice or a offering a stranger a smile, people find comfort in kindness. The author of the above was unkind. No opinions were changed through the experience. No hope blossomed that America’s fractured politics could reconcile themselves. Instead, a man swore at a woman and claimed victory and, worse, the moral high ground.
This post isn’t about politics. It’s about love, peace, and Jesus (who, coincidentally, brings both of those things to the party). The writer is right to say we shouldn’t back down from defending our beliefs, but never at the cost of another person’s dignity. Souls are converted by fellow souls: we must never forget that Christians are the face of Christ for the unbeliever and believer alike.
Blessed John Paul II wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus said to the apostles: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Though invisible, He is personally present in His Church. He is likewise present in each Christian, by virtue of baptism and other sacraments. It was usual to say, as early as the era of the Fathers, “Christianus alter Christus” (“The Christian is another Christ”), meaning by this emphasize the dignity of the baptized and his vocation, through Christ, to holiness.”
Pope Francis’ recent interview with America magazine is another excellent example of comforting the afflicted. My husband said he was concerned pre-reading it because Jezebel had a picture of hearts around Pope Francis’ head. And then I saw a NARAL meme saying thank you to Pope Francis from all the pro-choice women out there, which is something that makes some people’s heads explode with worry about the purity of the Church and our beautiful faith.
But as the angel said to the shepherds, Fear not!! Where we worry about the Church and faith’s teachings (all intact, y’all), we should be exploding with happiness at all the people who are opening their hearts to Jesus. Did you ever consider this as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to really plant seeds in our fellow brothers and sisters who may not love or accept our Lord Christ Jesus? This could be the beginning of the path for so many to come home to Rome. Do not rend your garments or worry – we cannot control other people’s reactions (though we can lovingly correct if necessary); we can only continue to witness to the greatness of our God.
What I’ve taken away from Pope Francis’ interview is that we need to reach out to people in a charitable way and that it is okay to say, “I don’t agree with you, but you are a human being, and I am going to engage you charitably on that human level first.” It is okay to acknowledge the positives of people, even people you disagree with, and more than it being okay, it can be the bridge in which conversions happen – because the heart more often changes on a human, emotional level more than a logical, intellectual one. And that is why bleeding-hearts are loving on Pope Francis more than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, even though they say the same things.
Pope Francis may seem naive, and maybe he is, but I like that we’re not being given a cookie cutter answer every time. I like that he is approaching people and not selling out on the faith’s hardest questions to answer. He has one of the hardest jobs – “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
I think this is a good lesson that there are no politics in the real Church: either we follow the Church’s teachings, or we follow ourselves. The Pope is our spiritual leader. He cannot enforce God’s law, he can only teach it in a different way, and send out the Good News into the world again and again and again. I love Pope Francis. I think he is doing WAY more good than “harm” and I think that this is a very real wake-up call for each of us Catholics – that our Catholic faith and our proclamation that Jesus is Lord is something each of us must do and grapple with in our own hearts and home, with the assistance of the Church and the sacraments. Pope Francis can only do and say so much – it is up to the Church, especially its laity, to renew the culture and live the faith.
Dignity isn’t mercantilism: dignity is for all, and there is an unlimited amount to go around, for loved ones as well every single person you disagree with or dislike. A person’s character is not measured based on the love they give when they feel it, but rather, loving (action verb) when feelings dictate otherwise. It’s those times in which it’s necessary to take a deep breath, smile, and offer up a situation that is out of your control to God. Every person is unique, and therefore, going to disagree with you on certain points. Offer it up. Do not hurt another person to achieve victory. Offer it up. Let it go.
All for the glory of the Kingdom, people.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
This post was partially re-published; the original is here.