Checking the news and keeping our eyes open to see what’s happening not only in the world but also to see those around us, both those we know and those we may see only once.
We’ve watched videos of people being carried out of their homes in Liberia by people covered from head to toe in protective clothing to keep them from contracting Ebola, a disease that is desiccating parts of that nation among several others in West Africa. Now, we’re watching as a second heath care worker in Dallas has contracted the disease. People are beginning to realize something like this can happen here.
Extremists are killing people in the Middle East every day, people who disagree with their views, their religion, their ancestry. Now, we’re discovering some citizens of this country are listening to a radical message and buying into a philosophy that rationalizes murder in the name of religion. What will we do if those radicalized Americans want to return, bring their ideas and “skills” to our neighborhoods and towns?
What we have here, folks, is not a failure to communicate as Paul Newman said in “Cool Hand Luke,” if anybody remembers that movie. It is a failure to build relationships with the people in our neighborhoods. It is a gross, or even sometimes benign, neglect of those who need us most, those who feel ostracized and marginalized in society. Where does this start? If we look at our recent history, we find it in our schools. They might be the children who have no friends, who, for some reason are described as different or strange or that they just don’t fit in.
Here’s a thought: Talk to your children about being respectful, being kind to people who are different, especially those who don’t fit in. Those might be the children that become great inventors some day, or they could be the ones who, because they feel alienated, take up arms against their peers or go to radical websites and listen to messages that fuel hate and extremism.
If you think it’s too late, think again. It’s never too late to be kind when you meet someone, to speak to a person who looks lost and alone — not in a way that’s unsafe but in a way that includes someone who otherwise may feel excluded. We have the power to change ourselves, to reach out with an open hand rather than wait until that person returns with a clenched fist.
All we have to do is look around to see that doing nothing is part of a recipe for disaster that includes all of us. The world is getting smaller, just ask the people in Dallas or the parents of young men beheaded by extremists. It’s not impossible for us to be touched by what goes on thousands of miles away. And it’s up to each of us to craft a future that includes rather than excludes, that respects rather than condescends, that preaches a gospel message in a world that needs it so desperately.