“…to the poor person who is with you [et-he’ani imach]…” (Exodus 22:24)
Did that study group just ask “us” to consider the plight of “the poor”?
Did that prayer just focus on “the needy” as though we were weren’t present?
Is this house of prayer really for all people?
Recognize the special burdens of relative wealth, but don’t assume everyone here bears them.
Acknowledge privilege but don’t assume everyone present enjoyed its fruits.
And never speak as though “the poor” are not in the house.
Can you hear the sounds of loss and fear, struggle and stress all around you?
Know the difference between sleeping on a park bench and moving in with friends when house payments fail;
Realize that worrying about whether one will eat today is different from making excuses to skip business lunches;
Understand that dropping out of college is more catastrophic than struggling on without textbooks or funds to visit home;
And be aware that never having a day of economic ease sits on one’s consciousness differently than losing one’s pension.
But remember that no challenge is easy to manage just because someone else is facing a greater — or a different — one.
Hear, and honor, everyone’s experience.
Only then, when all have listened and all have heard. Only then, when our language and our minds make room for the full variety around us… only then, together, will our “light blaze forth like the dawn” and our “wounds quickly heal.”
(2012, CC BY-NC-SA)