It's social justice week here at TU...a week i had been highly anticipating. Though i am on crutches, i had made the decision that that would not become a hindrance to sleeping outside in a box with about a hundred others who share the desire to gain an awareness throughout campus of those who don't have anything but a box to go home to at night. Then, i got sick. I was in the ER last night for the 3rd time this year due to breathing/asthma complications. Even so, there was a part of me that desperately still wanted to sleep outside. After a conversation with my roommate and a few others, and an analysis of the situation, i came to the conclusion that i would not stay outside. Frustrated, and lying in bed all day, I've had time to think about the decision and realized that to sleep outside while undergoing sickness and sore ankle would have been purely for selfish reasons. IF i was truly doing this to empathize, to gain awareness, then there is no need for me to sleep outside. Through the difficulty i am undergoing, trying to breathe, and trying to walk, i am experiencing a part of the pain that those on the street often deal with. I can empathize with that. I am uncomfortable, i have to spend most of my energy drawing a breath, i can't walk around easily, and i have to depend on others to help me through my days. So, I am learning to be empathetic to the pain, and sympathetic to those who don't have somewhere comfortable to go, don't have nebulizers to help draw a breath, crutches and golf cart to help them get around, and people to support them throughout their day. Ironically, my social justice week is the exact opposite of those living outside. The context of their day is lived as a the least of these, and the content of my day is lived as the least of these. Separately, we will never know what it is like, unless we are to experience it first hand. Put us together, and we have a community who is (somewhat) aware of the pain and the conditions and is ready to love in an entirely different way.
Also, a thought from Donald Miller,that I'm trying to keep in mind (i think that we may be using the word "sympathetic" in a different way, perhaps he is using it more in the sense of pity)
"Somehow I had come to believe that because a person is in need, they are candidates for sympathy, not just charity. It was not that i wanted to buy her groceries, the government was already doing that. I wanted to buy her dignity. And yet, by judging her, I was the one taking her dignity away."
On an entirely different (and yet, not) note. I just finished 1000 Splendid Suns. (One can read 300 pages in a day if one cannot get out of bed). I'm still processing, quite a bit. Without giving away the heart wrenching plot, suffice it to say that this book was all too real.
At the end, Tariq, one of the main characters says that the war "may not be so bad in the end."
His wife, Laila, responds saying, "Not so bad? People dying? Women, children, old people? Homes destroyed again? Not so bad?...How can you say that Tariq?...You wouldn't know. You left when the Mujahadeen began fighting, remember? I'm the one who stayed behind. Me. I know war. I lost my parents to war. My parents, Tariq. And now to hear you say that war is not so bad?"
He answers, "I'm sorry Laila. I'm sorry. You're right. I'm sorry. Forgive me. What i meant was that maybe there will be hope at the other end of this war, that maybe for the first time in a long time...
She begins to think, it unfair, what she said to him--hadn't war taken his parents too?--and whatever had flared in her was softening already...She knows that he is probably right. She knows how his comment was intended. Maybe this is necessary. Maybe there will be hopewhen Bush's bombs stop falling. But she cannot bring herself to say it, not when what happened to Babi and Mammy is happening to someone now in Afghanistan, not when some unsuspecting girl or boy back home has just been orphaned by a rocket as she was. Laila cannot bring herself to say it. It's hard to rejoice. It seems hypocritical, perverse.
This book was powerful. You should read it. It was written by an Afghani born man. It is important to see things from the perspective of those who are going through a trial. That is why i support social justice week and Khaled Hosseini, and also why i recommend both to you.