How Would You Feel?

Our first introduction to moral and ethical behavior is most often some version of The Golden Rule. It might be as simple as your mom asking you, “How would you feel?” after you have taken a toy away from your sister.

And that’s really the essential question isn’t it? How would you feel if it were you? In this way our guide to right action becomes empathy. We imagine what another person is feeling by listening to our own feelings. We make the connection between their actual experience and how we might experience a similar situation.

So we learn to not do to others what we don’t want done to us. And we learn to do for others what we ourselves desire done for us. We recognize that other people are people just like us and that they feel the same sorts of things we feel. Their humanity is just as central to the situation as ours.

Some people are able to put all of this aside and focus solely on their own interests. They believe this is a sign of strength. Some claim it is leadership. Long arguments are made to justify and side step our fundamental moral obligations to others. Every effort is made to keep others out of the circle of consideration and to undermine their essential humanity. But being selfish doesn’t increase our worth and long arguments cannot take away another’s essential humanity.

After all, the question remains: How would you feel?
How would you feel if you were homeless?
How would you feel if needed to eat but had no money to pay for food?
How would you feel if needed help getting your laundry done or just getting cleaned up?
How would you feel if others treated you like trash?
How would you feel if people were afraid of you because of your race or religion or language?

Once you know how you would feel then you will also know what to do and what to not do. And you will be living out the first lesson of a good life.

Compassion is Our Standard

imageRacism has become a catch-all word. Some use it as a convenient epithet aimed at
anyone deemed insufficiently tolerant.

Of course racism, the notion that my race is superior to other races,  is a serious problem and leads to predictable behavior that ends in long term harm. Some people are openly racist and others do not recognize their own racist thoughts, attitudes or actions.

Not everyone is a racist, and not everyone sees their race as superior in one way or another. Even if they have racist speech or attitudes, they may not recognize them in themselves. Many times leveling the charge of racism falls on deaf ears. The person you are talking to doesn’t identify as a racist person. When you call them racist, they don’t know who you are talking about. You lose credibility and they need to defend themselves from one of the most damning accusations in our society. The conversation ends here.

Besides, being racist isn’t the standard. Human decency isn’t satisfied by simply avoiding contempt for other races.

My efforts to avoid being a racist aren’t enough. While I am not a racist, I may be a bigot – intolerant of other opinions or social groups. Or I may demonstrate that I am prejudiced – holding negative, preformed opinions of individuals based on their sex, religion, country of origin, economic status, etc, etc. I may be needlessly fearful of other groups or show undue favoritism to my own. There are plenty of ways that I can hurt others.

Loving our neighbors is more than avoiding hate, disrespect, indifference. It is more than avoiding the pitfalls of racism, bigotry, prejudice, fearfulness and favoritism.

Christians teach that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So, in various ways, do Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others. We teach that it is right to treat others in the way we desire to be treated. And we teach each other to avoid doing the things we ourselves find hurtful, unkind, inconsiderate.

When I love my neighbor in the same ways I love myself, I avoid causing them pain. I also find ways to show kindness and attend to their concerns. When I love my neighbor as myself, I will feel the pain they feel, experience the suffering they experience. When I love my neighbor as myself, I will be moved to action to heal their pain and end their suffering. I will be moved to compassion.

Our efforts may seem small or insignificant, but they will find their mark.  They will ease a little pain and put aside a bit of suffering.  So we begin by smiling, shaking hands, offering kind words.  We give away socks,  power bars, some laundry soap and quarters.  Little tiny acts of compassion.

Our longing for human decency is satisfied in compassion. It is rooted in our ability to feel how others feel and then to take action on the behalf of others to ease their pain and suffering. This is the standard for decency. It is the standard for loving our neighbor. It is the fulfillment of the golden rule. When we evaluate the weight of our thoughts, words, attitudes and actions, and if we desire to contribute to human decency in our day, compassion will be our standard.

And So We Begin

imageOk. It’s time. We are as ready as we are going to be. Let’s jump in.

This Sunday we are starting something new for our little community and for Dana Point. We are launching Laundry Love. More than 12 years ago a little revolution of kindness began with a simple conversation. Since then more than 600,000 loads of laundry have been washed, dried and folded and the lives of nearly half a million people have been touched.

Now it’s our turn to participate. It won’t be so difficult and it won’t be very demanding. A couple of rolls of quarters, a little of your time and a bit of kindness and you are in. Because in our world sharing, patience and gentleness really are revolutionary.

Our first time out is full of questions. How many people will come? How many loads of laundry we they do? Will there be other ways we can help?

This much we know: We will provide the laundry detergent and quarters for the machines and they will wash, dry and fold. We will start a with line and help each person in turn until all the laundry is done. Our last load will go in at 2:30.

We also know there is a car show on the street that day, but people will still be able to get in from the street/alley in the back. We have handed out flyers at low income housing that is a few hundred feet away. So they know that we will be there. Some have invited friends or family that can use the help. Now we pray that God will bring the people.

If you want to join us, consider doing some of these things:

** Tell your friends or family what we are doing. Maybe they can be of help or maybe they need a little help.
** Bring some quarters to donate. Two or three quarters would be great. Two or three rolls of quarters would also be great.
** Visit with us at the laundromat. Maybe you can come for a short time in the beginning or at the end or sometime in between. Or perhaps you want to spend the afternoon together helping and making new friends.

So we will do what we can. No guilt, no shaming, no blame. In a little revolution of kindness everyone is welcomed.

Thanks and see you Sunday.