Whose Hand Did You Shake?
About a year ago, I shook hands with a convicted rapist.
I didn’t think about it at the time. It occurred to me later that evening. It made me think of others whose hands I have shaken:
Kids in foster care. Kids in prison. Co-workers and colleagues. Drug Addicts. Friends and family members. Undocumented immigrants. Community leaders. Sex workers. Soldiers. Leaders of faith communities. Convicted murders. Politicians at all levels. Famous athletes, celebrities and musicians. Billionaires. Victims of human trafficking. CEOs and VPs of Fortune 500 companies. Former President Barack Obama back when he was campaigning for the United States Senate.
An incredibly diverse group of individuals. Some of whom are widely regarded in society, some of whom are reviled and rejected in society. They all shared one characteristic though.
They’re all human.
They all have or will make decisions I would vehemently disagree with and condemn. Yet, those decisions never stopped me from shaking their hands.
In a handshake, there is an implied value of acceptance.
Not acceptance of what someone does but an acceptance, a recognition of the others’ humanness. Sometimes a handshake is used to convey strength, power or something else but none of these remove the acceptance that is inherent in the act. (And, of course, other cultures have their own actions that physically convey the same message of recognition of humanness from one person to another.)
I feel it is hardly controversial to say our society has forgotten or is intentionally ignoring how desperately we all need to recognize each other’s humanness, the inherent value found in all of us that cannot be taken away.
In Me You Us, I advocated for three intentional steps to help create healthier communities. Steps that aren’t earth-shattering in themselves but rather are steps an individual person could reasonably do.
Once again, I don’t have an exciting, new solution to fight the abyss that seems to be doing more than just staring back at us. I can only suggest the command that is found in so many faiths around the world, including the one I follow. A command that is thousands of years old yet still is not being heeded.
Love one another.
It’s not a call to accept and tolerate injustice and inequality. It’s a call to accept you as you and me as me and for me to try my best to be better for the greater good of you.
It’s not a flippant, naïve or pithy phrase that glosses over the depth of depravity which we humans are capable. Love takes work.
Saying “love one another” and stubbornly believing that is enough is outrageous nonsense. Every day. Every single day, I must make the decision to love those around me. To accept their faults and hope they accept mine.
What if someone takes advantage? They have taken advantage and will continue to. What if I fail to live up to this calling? I have failed and still often do.
What if? What if? What if? What if is a question rooted in fear. A fear of what? I can’t answer that for you. (Though, I would suggest your worldview as a starting place to determine where your fear is rooted.)
In the Christian faith specifically, we are not called to ask, What if?
We are commanded to fear not.
In the Christian faith specifically, we are not called to judge and condemn.
We are commanded to reflect the image of God by way of the two-fold path of justice and beauty. To be a light in the world, a pocket of heaven, a refuge of good harboring others from the darkness of human corruption and evil in our world.
Let us remember to love, to forgive and to be better than that which our inner demons allow us to be content with.