Friday, December 31, 2010

We are All in the Same Boat

I began this New Year's Eve morning by reading a wonderful note from my cousin. Looking ahead to the coming year, Janey shared a few lines from the inspirational writing of Sue Monk Kidd. As I looked up the quote and read the entire piece by Kidd, I found her words convicting and compelling as I contemplate the coming new year.
On a bitter night in January, I sit on a train that rumbles away from the airport in Atlanta ... I'm supposed to be flying home to South Carolina, but minutes before my departure, the entire airport closed because of an impending ice storm ...

It's a long ride ... Soon there are only three of us. A middle-aged woman sits across from me. I look at her for the first time and notice that she's crying. As she wipes tears with the back of her hand, her gaze lingers on my face ... She's asking for my attention.

... I feel sad for her, but what can I do? She's carrying her own troubles and I can't fix them ... I look away from her, retreating into the murmur of the train. Quietly, uncomfortably unavailable.

... The second night she comes powerfully into my dreams. She sits across from me, this time in a rowboat. Her tears gush over the tiny precipice of her eyelids like waterfalls. The boat is filling up with this sad water, and I realize that if I don't do something, we're going to sink. Both of us ...
The dream cracks my heart, and I wake with solemn wonder, reunited with an old truth:

People with profound human needs and suffering do not, as I have half-imagined and half-wished, travel in a boat separate than mine. In ways I have scarcely appreciated, we are all in the same boat, and I can't be unavailable to their suffering without jeopardizing my own soul. We will sink together or we will float together.
Excerpted from Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd, Guideposts Books, 2006

Similarly, Jesus spoke of the opportunity to share in the sufferings of others in Luke 10:30-34 ~
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he say him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
I am moved by the words Martin Luther King, Jr., in response to Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan ~
The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
Convicting. There have been times when I did not stop when those around me were asking for my attention; times when I may have stopped and merely watched as they strained at the oars. There have been times when I could have, no should haveclimbed in the boat to bail water or simple sit still to balance the boat against the storms of life. I admit, it is so much easier to rejoice with those who rejoice than to weep with those who weep. But that is the essence of living in community.

Compelling. My prayer and hope for the new year is that I would be willing to be fully present in the lives of those around me; to recognize that we are all in the same boat, and I can't be unavailable to their suffering without jeopardizing my own soul. We will sink together or we will float together.

May these thoughts be more than New Year's Eve sentiment, but truly motivate me to redeem the future that lies ahead in the coming year.