Some years ago, when I last owned a car, I recall driving home after work and listening to All Things Considered on the radio and some horrific event was occurring on the other side of the world. I don't remember what it was exactly, probably something to do with our invasion of Iraq and the chaos that followed. It was horror that was ongoing, with no immediate end in sight. Death and destruction.
And I was in Houston, stuck in traffic, but in an orderly fashion, no fear for my immediate surroundings, the likelihood of anything blowing up around me quite small. Safe.
How can the world be so large to have my safety and that danger going on all at once?
This thought hits me now and then. How I walk home from the bus stop the few blocks down a dark but busy street, how I try to be aware of my surroundings but also not very scared while elsewhere people don't dare do such things, some within the same city, some far away. Some don't walk in safety in daylight.
Or I'm sitting in a theater, watching dance or a play, aware that someone, somewhere is grieving. Or I'm in worship, singing praises while someone, somewhere is being crushed. It happens. I know it does.
How can the world big big enough to hold all this?
As usual, I only have the questions, no answers.
And still, I know the world is this small: In all these circumstances, people remain creative. Sometimes the creativity is a survival mechanism, sometimes an expression of the grief joy fear thanksgiving anger relief hurt healing. In all these circumstances, people still know songs and sing them. In all these circumstances people still fall in love and create new life, whether in procreation or the abundant life of community.
Lately, I've been thinking about places, populations, peoples where oppression is a given, defeat is likely, grief is expected. They exist in this city, this state, this nation as well as around the world. Given to melancholy as I can be, I've begun looking to them as teachers. They continue to have celebrations, ceremonies, song, dance, and color in their lives. They make these things happen anyway.
I've been thinking that's the abundant life of Jesus, who did not have a peaceful life and did not have an easy death, but he still spoke of abundant life.
It's crazy talk and the world needs it. If you pay attention, it's often the people who are most often crushed who believe it. They are, after all, who Jesus was talking to. The poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned.
We who are more affluent and free have things to learn about the Gospel. Our teachers are all around us, if we allow the world to get small enough. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to open.