TBM Topic 31: Comfort the Afflicted
We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!
During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
“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.
Wow. Tolerance, much? After that, he 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. This is where I get to my point about comforting the afflicted: they’re not just the physically sick. They can be spiritually sick. Or just lack good manners. I miss the old ladies who would keep order by calling the naughty child’s parents. If you want a much-needed reality series, I think Miss Manners should take 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.
As 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.”
Dignity isn’t a 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)