I have a very dear friend who is in her late sixties. She is funny and kind. Her celebrations are surrounded by family and friends. She complains about the aches and pains of old age. She walks her dogs and loves her husband. She has, in her own words, a good life. But if you catch her over a cup of coffee, perhaps when it is snowing outside and the world seems to be a little more distant she will tell a story of violence. Severe beatings at the hands of a drunk husband, her children running to her neighbours in terror and years and years of abuse before, finally she walked away. This strand of darkness runs through her life all the time. However, it doesn’t overwhelm her and has not blighted her life. When I asked her why she said it is because people in her life were kind. They became involved and provided safe spaces for her and her kids. Each small act of kindness, she has said, has resulted in her ability to walk through the rest of her life without damaging others because of the violence she has suffered.
I think that this brings me to the parable of the talents. Rather than a threat, it is a warning – if we do not respond to people in distress with compassion we are bound to become less than the human brothers and sisters God intended us to be. Not all of us have the same resources for compassion but we also are all able to do something. The very last thing that we should do is bury our compassion, hoard it and keep it for ourselves and respond only to our own needs or those of our families. Every act of kindness has a multiplier effect. My friend speaks of the neighbours that sheltered her daughters, the police man who would quietly drop in occasionally to make sure she was safe, the lawyers who helped her with the custody of her children and all the acts both small and great that have led to the gentle life she is living now. Each act a link in a chain that has enabled her to walk with others in distress.
This familiar and well-worn parable contains the hope that love, the bedrock of the Kingdom of God, will never be wasted. We need to throw it around with lavish abandon. It makes a huge difference, even when we do not see it at the time. I must admit, I am deeply distress by the casual cruelty that surrounds me on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, I am powerless to effect the grand systemic changes that are needed to make life more bearable for many people. My small choice is whether I fold myself into a little ball or whether I open my arms wide and embrace those around me with lavish love. The choice is open to me every day. So, I leave off these thoughts with a prayer ringing in my head:“Glory to God Whose power working within us, Can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation.”
Written By: Ms Vanessa Michael, Canada