There but for the Grace of God

With lots of things going on in this world and in the US, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the phrase “there but for the Grace of God”. I don’t mean to presume that God loves me more than he loves someone else, by any means, as I often joke that there’s a gold-plated chair in hell for me.

My circumstances are pretty awesome. I happen to have been born into a white middle-class family who valued education where abuse wasn’t in our vocabulary. I’m healthy (well, nothing a little less laziness, and a little more attention to what I eat can’t fix). I don’t have issues learning in a traditional format or working in a traditional format so I fit into the “traditional” mold. My parents could afford to help me get a great education. My life, and that of my kids is pretty sweet.

But, then, you hear about these moms who have buried their sons and daughters for things as heinous as not using a blinker… I think of the moms who are sending their kids across the border to try and get a better life because it’s better to be without the mom in a foreign country than stay home. I think of the parents who are trying to get to another country on a raft I wouldn’t let my kids use in a swimming pool. I think of parents who are working 3 jobs so they can afford to feed their kid(s) and never see them.

You can bet your sweet bippy that if my choice was to stay in a war-torn country where the odds are 50/50 my children and I can die, or take some crazy chances to get out, I’d be looking to get out. Legally or not. If the law isn’t going to keep my kids and I safe, I’m not going to give two figs about the law. I can’t imagine living in this country where my skin color would put me at risk for walking down the street.

I understand the men and women who are protesting in inconvenient locations (freeways, malls) because they are sick and tired of worrying about their kids every time they walk out the door solely because their color makes them a target. Protesting on the freeway and inconveniencing some people for a night when I’m at risk every day, yah, I can get why they are doing that. There but for the Grace of God, these are not scenarios I face day in and day out.

Right behind “there but for the Grace of God” is “where much is given, much is expected.” Sometimes when I watch the rhetoric (and no, I didn’t watch the Republican debate), I think we’ve lost our way as that “city on the hill”. We’ve been given (or we took) a country with some phenomenal natural resources. We have had some leaders drive us through some dire times. We have the geographic distance from so much of the rest of the world, that we’ve been privileged to avoid so much of the world’s problems.

We have forgotten that we have a responsibility to everyone on this earth to do our best to make this a better place to live. We have forgotten that we have founded this nation on the words of “Give me your tired, your poor. your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… I lift my lamp besides the golden door” (Emma Lazarus). We have forgotten that “All men [and women] are created equal.”

We have forgotten the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are blithely walking by the men and women in this world who have been beaten and robbed, whether of their goods or their human dignity. We seem to have taken a philosophy that since my life is hard, I don’t have any sympathy left for someone else. Not only do I not have any sympathy, I also no longer have any energy to care about anyone who is different than me. Oh sure, if a natural disaster hits, we’ll give some nominal money to assuage our consciousness. But we’re not giving our comfort, real money, real effort.

I am far from innocent in this. I’m definitely guilty of paying attention to that which is close to home. And not worrying about my neighbor unless something brings their pain to my attention. We need to do better about remembering our neighbors are across this world as well as in our back pocket. Our neighbors are people trying to save their lives and the lives of their family whether they are in a war-torn nation or a poverty stricken part of Detroit. Our neighbors are those fighting for the Republican nomination (even though I personally can’t stand what comes out of many of their mouths). Our neighbors are those who are  trying to go to school, go to work, raise a family, not raise a family. Our neighbors are those humans who are inhabiting our earth with us.

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