Helping those in need
I recently had a chat to a colleague and admit the conversation caused me much reflection about the complexities of human behaviour, and what it is that drives us to behave towards others in the way we do. This applies particularly to the choices we make about hospitality to outsiders who are vulnerable and marginalised.
I confess I was deeply distressed and embarrassed by the policies both major parties put forward in the recent election campaign regarding asylum seekers. In the midst of wallowing in the disappointment of what seemed to characterise our cold and perhaps fearful attitudes to needy strangers in our so-called ‘fair go’ nation, I experienced a completely different side of the Australian community.
Three days before flying to a quiet destination for a week of study leave, my colleague came down with flu. Despite spending those three days resting at home, he was still a bit weak and wobbly when he made his way to the airport courtesy of Sydney Trains.
Perhaps it was unwise of him to spare the expense and not take a taxi; perhaps silly to attempt the journey in the first place. And yes, I imagine he would say it would have been better to use the lift at Central rather than haul luggage up the stairs. The outcome of all his ‘poor’ decision-making was that between Green Square and Mascot station he had to advise his wife that he was about to either throw up or faint! He fainted, only regaining consciousness as a fellow passenger was half carrying him off the train and onto a station seat at Mascot. He then threw up! He told me that what am
azed him at the time, and on reflection, was the hospitable response of fellow passengers who could not have been kinder or more helpful. They supported this stranger with care and concern. The train guard went off to call station staff, leaving his train delayed. The station staff were attentive and kind. Fellow passengers, delaying their exit from the station, offered advice, tissues, various medications, and a call for an ambulance (which thankfully was not needed).
Anglos, Asian, people of Middle-eastern appearance – not any two of those helpers were from the same cultural group.
So who are we really? It seems sometimes we fall into the trap of the Pharisees and scribes, who, on seeing Jesus reaching out to the needy and the apparently undeserving, grumbled, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them”, (Luke 15: 2).
We are, like them, tempted to label, judge and exclude vulnerable people from the ambit of our compassion. Then again, we sometimes live out of our better selves, as followers of Jesus. We treat the strayers as those who are lost and need to be found, and consider outsiders as human beings needing to find a home in the hospitality of God’s kingdom.
I am sure that fear, or the lack of it, plays a big part in the way we respond to strangers. Perhaps this is why Jesus so often encouraged his followers with the words “Do not be afraid”.
Having a heart for the outsider in need is well within our capabilities of our nation. In the current crisis, those of us who are called to demonstrate the inclusive love of Jesus have a special responsibility to stand up and be counted for the Common Good, and consistently act from the impulses of our better selves.
I was relieved to hear my colleague and his wife did make their flight, but it was only thanks to the kind support of those strangers.
The Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator
You can follow the Moderator on Twitter @BrianBrownUCA
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