"...I love your vision of the future
Your hope that never dies
But it's your kindness
That clears my skies..."
(click on the title just above to see a video of this song)
My sister Fawn sent me this little story recently:
"One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said: 'My son, the battle is between 'two wolves' inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked his grandfather: 'Which wolf wins?'
The old Cherokee simply replied: 'The one you feed.'"
What I love about this story is the separation the grandfather makes between the individual...and the wolves. It's not a new concept...how many times in old Tom & Jerry cartoons do we see the big tomcat with a horned demon on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, each trying to convince him of their point of view or position...torment little Jerry, or let him go?
I have been thinking about this today in light of a recent conversation with a friend about social responsibility.
When I am presented with options...pay my taxes or not, support legislation that would ban same-sex marriage - or not, protest the freedom to bear arms - or not, give the man on the corner money for a sandwich - or not, go the speed limit at 4 AM on an empty stretch of highway - or not, get myself out the door to serve at a homeless shelter, or stay home in my jammies and read the NYTimes (hmmm...) ...I am trying to ask myself "what am I feeding" with my choices. Will I be contributing to a climate of greed or generosity, fear or love, manipulative control or trust, cultural disparity or unity, humanity or insanity, compassion or disdain, equality or superiority, universal freedom or the enslavement of other for the profiting of the privileged, war or peace, service or indulgence, divisiveness or cooperation...in myself, or in the world?
In asking myself these questions, I keep coming back to the internal battle between the two "wolves" (or sheep and goats) that Jesus describes, and Matthew records, in the New Testament:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick? Or in prison, and came unto thee?"
And the King shall answer and say unto them, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in. Naked, and ye clothed me not. Sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not."
Then shall they also answer him, saying, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?"
Then shall he answer them, saying, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
So I have to ask myself, "Who are "the least of these" that I must care for? What would make me feel that I am responsible for the cares, woes, education, and shelter of MY daughters, but not the child and her battered mother - sleeping in a Detroit homeless shelter, or the man begging on the streets of Calcutta?"
What concepts about myself, and my relationship to the world around me, am I feeding? One of universal and impartial goodness - abundant resources that we are entrusted with for the care and feeding of humanity, or one of privilege and partiality based on opportunity, race, education, religion, geography, cultural history? What language do I think God's angels use to guide my actions -- generosity, abundance, charity, freedom, compassion, hope...or greed, fear, blindness, pride, resentment, arrogance?
I don't think these questions are about politics, nationalism, haves and/or have nots. Politics and rhetoric would distract us from the real choices. And it is not about choosing a party, a leader, a position, a side, or a dogma. The real choice lies in which wolf...which voice...we are going to feed within ourselves. And we must not judge one another. Only the listener knows whether his (or her) speech and actions are the result of feeding one wolf, or the other, moment-by-moment. And I don't know about you, but I have too much that I need to be alert to in my own heart, to try and police the thoughts, motives, or actions of another. So, I choose to trust that each of my brothers and sisters is feeding the wolf that they want to see grow stronger in themselves, and in the world.
"...I love your wisdom
Your knowledge of the past
Your willingness to listen
Your taste for what will last
I love your compassion for the suffering
And your solid happiness
But it's your kindness
That I love the best..."
Thank you David (and Fawn)...you have both reminded me, once again, of what is truly beautiful in this world...and I am grateful,
Kate Robertson, CS