Thanks to the reader who posted the Marcus Borg comment below. You can read more of Borg's thoughts and explore different aspects of Christianity at http://www.explorefaith.org (or click on the title above).
This weekend our church is having a rummage/bake sale to benefit the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. When I learned recently what a fistula is, a shudder went through me: that could have been me. Six years ago, had I been Ethiopian instead of American, I may well have suffered this terrible consequence of a long, hard labor without recourse to a c-section: tissue and nerve damage, loss of muscle control, and incontinence. I may well have lost my dignity, family and home. I may well have walked a hundred miles to the hospital to throw myselves on their mercy.
Today, as I unfolded a creaky aluminum chaise longue in the narthex -- amid other dented furniture, homely crystal "gift items" and faded clothing, I became depressed at the display. This stuff, this damaged detritus of our lives. Most of it a crime against good taste. Even if all of it sold (and believe me, nothing is going to budge that mountain of yarn and fabric), the proceeds will be less than most of us spend on a year's supply of coffee. Is this all we can do?
It seems to me that loving one's neighbor was easier before the global village, back when one's neighbor was literally next door. Now our hearts are burdened with the grim realities of the third world and we can either respond as best we can, struggling to find and refind the right balance among all the competing needs for our resources, or we can choose to shut down.
Today I wanted to shut down. I posted posters, priced a few donations, bought some hi-carb Lutheran baked goods and got out of Dodge. The kids and I went to see "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," an enjoyable documentary about a man who tends parrots in San Francisco. Afterwards we got caught in a rainshower, had lunch in a cafe, browsed through a bookstore and practiced drawing airplanes. A lovely afternoon.
But I keep thinking about Ethiopia.