Faces on Faith: Paying it forward
Two quotes have recently captured my attention, continue to bounce around in my reflections, and challenge me to better living.
The first is from Thomas Merton “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”
A few years ago I visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. It was an eye opening experience to witness firsthand the challenging living conditions under which so many people had to endure.
One of the guides, speaking about charity for those who lived in the tenements, used the phrase “worthy poor”. How troubling to think that people felt they had the right to judge who was eligible to receive help and who was not, who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’.
How different from the Gospel accounts which tell about all who came to Jesus being healed and all who were among the five-thousand being fed.
How freeing it is to not to be a judge of who is worthy of our love and random acts of kindness. I appreciate Edwin Markham’s wisdom:
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !
What does this loving others without condition or judgment look like in our everyday walk around lives? I think loving people is expressed by our doing good. John Wesley said it best
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Do you remember the movie Pay It Forward?
It is a movie about a boy, named Trevor McKinney, who, along with the rest of his social studies class, is given an assignment to come up with an idea that will change the world.
Trevor’s idea is called “pay it forward.” That is, instead of paying a favor back to the one who gave it, you pay a favor forward to someone who needs a favor and then that person pays it forward and so on and so.
In young Trevor’s view, if each person did this for three people and if each of them paid it forward to three more people, the world would indeed be changed for the better.
The three people Trevor chooses are a drug addict, his physically and emotionally scarred school teacher, and a classmate who is constantly bullied by his peers.
Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea brings a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.
Trevor models love without judgment of worthiness and what it can mean to do all the good we can.
May we, as people of good will, practice his example.
-Pastor George E. Morris, Captiva Chapel by the Sea