2 Timothy 2:8-15
When I was a young undergraduate at DePaul University in Chicago, I was accused of being a willy-nilly idealist. I suspect the person(s) who called me that thought it demeaning. I didn’t then (1960’s) and I still don’t today. I further believe this idealism puts me squarely with Jesus when he responds to the Scribe in today’s scripture passage that the second greatest of all commandments is:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus wasn’t the first to suggest such a commandment. Confucius (551-479 BCE) as well as Buddha (c. 470 – 390 BCE) also taught this. Luckily, there are people around today who live this command. I was just reading about Jeff Skoll, the first president of Ebay who received Canada’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada. When asked why he cared about inner city school children, he responded:
"It’s because these neighborhoods affect everybody, whether it’s crimes or poverty or drugs or prison populations. We’re all better off if these neighborhoods are better off."
Personally, it’s been easy for me to profess such a belief. It has not been easy for me to live it out. While I professed such altruism in the 1960’s, I’ve spent my entire life trying to live up to that simple statement, to love my neighbor as myself.
I made some pretty good progress in the mid 1980’s when I learned that one way of accomplishing this was by seeing how I was like other people, and not constantly seeing how I was different. This didn’t come easy. I had to hear this old retired Chicago policeman, Mike L. constantly repeat his mantra: "See how you are like others, not how you are different". Luckily I heard him say that once a week for a couple of years, while attending the Monday, noon meeting at the Pittsfield Building in downtown Chicago. After hearing that week after week I finally started identifying with others. Today instead of thinking that the person who says they are hurt by something someone else says is thinned-skinned, I try to realize that I could and often am hurt by what another person says. When a person shares that they are afraid of not being up to the task at hand, instead of thinking they are a wimp, I try to realize that I often feel the same..
Today I also struggle with loving those who think differently-those dummies who are on all the wrong sides of current issues. I find it extremely difficult to listen to their rhetoric, yet that’s just what I want them to do for me, listen to my side.
Thank you God for the likes of Jeff Skoll and help me listen today to those who think differently and to treat them with the same respect I want for myself. Of course, that doesn’t mean I have to agree.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.