Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Actions Speak Louder

Once to every man and nation,

Comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood,

For the good or evil side;

Some great cause, some great decision,

Offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever,

’Twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,

When we share her wretched crust,

Ere her cause bring fame and profit,

And ’tis prosperous to be just;

Then it is the brave man chooses

While the coward stands aside,

Till the multitude make virtue

Of the faith they had denied.

-- James Russell Lowell


These are the first two stanzas of a hymn written by James Russell Lowell on the occasion of the United States war with Mexico, which he opposed. It has been removed from current Episcopal hymnals not, as some would tell you, because it contains the word "man" and has been declared sexist. No, it has been put aside for a deeper reason. The crux of the hymn is that we get "one chance" to make the choice for good or evil. This notion is, in fact, heresy. Episcopalians believe that our lives are full of many choices and opportunities to take a stand for what is right. It's not just a "one and done" proposition.

Blame it on delirium. I'm home sick and I've lost my voice so I'm contemplating heresy.

I'm putting this in the context of local decisions today. We make our lives out of what we choose, what we support. The Board of Education must weigh what is handed to them which supports the status quo versus what they hear from parents, students, and teachers. The County Council must weigh the intent of the Downtown Plan and the proposals of the Howard Hughes Corporation. The Planning Board weighs the desires of consumers who want a liquor store near Wegmans along with the voices of local liquor store owners who fear more competition.

We make a lot of choices. We are in very big trouble if our salvation hangs on just one of them. And who on earth knows which one?

And yet. I'm also thinking about this quote:

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. -- Maya Angelou

Most of us don't truly recognize that "first time" until there have been many such moments with someone and we come to the realization that this person has been telling us who they are all along. We just hadn't noticed. It's that "hindsight is 20/20" moment.

"Aha!" We say.

Look at their choices. Do they come from fear? Selfishness? A need to control? A desire for self-promotion? Or in those choices do we see compassion, fairness, thoughtfulness, open-minded balance?

People will show you who they are. We show others who we are. Not once, but over and over.

I'm on a bit of a Quaker kick, what with my new job and all. The motto of SSFS is "Let Your Lives Speak." Our lives do speak. What are they--we--saying?



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