Who is the other?
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one that I use often to remind others that God is in fact still speaking. The lesson is a good one about us versus them. Those we identify as being like us and those we know to not be like us. All of this boils down to trust and carries with it certain expectations. The one who represents the very best of us walks around and doesn't bat an eye. We feel betrayed but maybe we weren't righteous or holy enough. Then another of our fellows’ walks by unaffected by our suffering and indifferent to our plight. We are hurt now and we begin to question our role within the group identity. Then one who is least like us draws near and sees us. I believe it is the sight, the seeing, and the sudden orientation to our desperate and dire situation that moves this other into an attitude of compassion. Why? We see beggars on the street corners today; we see poverty in the grocery stores and disparity in the shelters. We have the ability to move around them and walk by them because we do not see ourselves in them. Even if that person is exactly like us except for their current situation we are conditioned to have a response to something that makes them not like us. But, if we draw near, if we look them in the eye and see them, we are moved. Some will choose to ignore this movement of compassion and stand firm on the image of they, them, and the other, not me. In my experience, it is moving inward and seeing the other, which allows for this countertransference. If we allow it, we suddenly see ourselves in their shoes and our minds and hearts are flooded with “what ifs,” and, “if only's." It always strikes me curiously as to why and how we begin to relate to others. What does it mean that we see what we see about our own selves in them? That feeling that we get in the drawing near. The one that begins to move us, is that a God moment? In the scriptures, Jesus uses the other many times to show us how we are not so different from them or how we forsake our own but aid the other. I went to a philosophy seminar once in which the presenter talked at length about how from an evolutionary perspective human beings should not help others who are not like them or a part of their own tribe. Yet time and time again we read stories of this person from this tribe helping a person, or group of people, from an opposite and often warring tribe. Why? I believe that this is evidence, proof if you will, that God is still speaking in this world. What other reason could be given to people abandoning their logic and reason, their social and cultural norms to be so moved as to hasten to the rescue and relief of someone different if not for the love of God? Even in the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son, we assume that those that were lost were the same, they were like us, and they were a part of our group or tribe. But the context of the stories shows that they were different in the smallest of fashions so that they were not like us at all and still there was a movement to rescue and redeem them when logic and cultural norms would have let them go, counted the loss and moved on, they were sought and returned. In this way the stories of others helping and of the wayward being rescued give me hope in a God that is still working in our world. It shows me the continued relevance of our scriptures and the fluidity of our ancestral heritage by faith being applicable to our lives today.