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‘Community and self must strive for the same goals’

We are heading into the holiday season. It is a bright time with festive tinsel and decoration of trees and houses. Even the stores have put on their best merchandising colors, deals, and offers to celebrate the season. Indeed, there is a bit of magic in the air.

This year, however, has been different; although the season struggles to put on a happy face, there is something much bleaker and more disturbing as I watch the news or listen to it.

Everywhere, there is great suffering. Conventional boundaries do not hold in violence and terror. It comes across our television screens every evening when minor children are kidnapped. Families are burned, shot, and killed in an everyday setting for no reason. Children are living with bombs exploding over their heads–mothers have no water or food to supply their children. The children are crying, and the poor mother is in deep pain as she cannot provide for her babies, nor can she explain why this suffering is taking place. The pictures that hurt the most are common everyday situations. These are ordinary people living in their own homes. These are people living an everyday life of the typical day. Their images came into my living room at dinner time. A sadness permeates the room.

How are we connected?

We are all human beings. We are all connected. We are all children of God, and we can all make choices–the choices we make come from the gift of free will. God does not make us choose only his way. He allows us to choose Him and His path. We are free to refuse. Refusal means I will do it my way; I am the most important thing here. Life’s journey is all about ME and what I want.

The concept of belonging to a vast human family is a community. Community takes all of us to participate and give up our selfish selves for the good of others. The virtues of compassion, care, hope, and charity go missing in the individual journey of self. Hurt and suffering damage us not only as viewers of this chaos, but the actual suffering of those involved is difficult to see.

Community and self must strive for the same goals. When the objective of selfishness is to make one group suffer for a selfish end of power, untruth, and made-up idealism, the end product is always oppression and the loss of the dignity of our human person.

As human beings, we share a common humanity. It is a culture that gives us the rituals that make us different. That means these customs of birth, food and preparation, marriage customs, and death rituals. Social rituals or customs regulate all of these. However, our humanity stays the same. Our common bond covers eating, birth, growing, sleeping, and dying.

We all share these events, no matter where we live or our ideology. Historically, human beings have developed a diverse society where we all play a part in the community’s good. But the community demands sharing. The selfishness of one or two can create a toxic environment of hate and abuse of those we think should no longer be part of our community.

I ask you to open your vision; the “other” is not the enemy. See the human person as a fellow pilgrim on the path of living. Hate and hurt only lead to more of this kind. We need to understand the human person and the dignity that this encompasses. One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was to see each person I met as a Child of God. God created each of the souls you will encounter in this life. You must treat them with the dignity God gave them, regardless of whether they see that in themselves. If we lived by this, there would be less suffering and hatred.

Jesus admonishes Christians to not only love their friends but also their enemies; this, in its time, was revolutionary. In the time of Jesus, the law was “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” This is yet with us–forgiveness as Jesus taught us, is an earmarking of the path to peace. We would have a different world if we saw each other as human beings, with all our faults and goodness, and yet tried to work with one another for peace and community.

As we enter this holy season of giving festivities and gatherings, I ask you to be mindful of the human dignity we share. I ask you to pray for peace and healing for all the sorrow and suffering of other human beings we must witness on the news. We are all connected and all children of God.

Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., hospice chaplain, may be reached at faithtoday2023@gmail.com.

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