Months ago, Sara said something to me that I haven’t forgotten. She stands 4 inches shorter than me, I think, but is such a powerhouse that I felt like she was eye to eye with me when she took my shoulders and said this, “Molly, your victory is my victory.”
That is one of the deepest and most mysterious Christian truths, I think. It is the heart of communion, in which the ego-walls between us human beings collapse and we are revealed as all belonging to the same body. It is the heart of baptism, where the ego-walls between us and God collapse, we acknowledge our status as children of God, and we share in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection—we follow God where no human has gone before.
It is the Christmas story, where Jesus comes down from heaven and takes on human form, game for whatever may come. It is the Easter story, where ‘made like Him, like Him we rise’ from the dead as the old hymn goes, and we learn to laugh at Death forever.
This might all sound like religious gobbledygook, but if you’ve ever had a Moment during your nephew’s baptism or while taking communion after a long absence from church, if you’ve ever let your guard slip during Christmas Eve or sunrise service and suddenly felt a lump your throat, you know that what I’m talking about is as real as anything.
Your victory is my victory. There is no “you” and “me” and “God” anymore, all tidy and separate, there’s no my cancer and her homelessness and God’s cool remoteness and your ability to sit there at work or at home and read these blog entries. There’s just all of us together, staggering toward victory.
Another thing I’m not proud of is the terrible Judgy Judger that lives inside of me. One kind of people I judge the most, interesting considering my hardness of heart against (some of) the homeless folks I meet, is people who spend their gold on what I deem to be silly or superficial or downright immoral, considering there is so much suffering and want in the world.
So Judgy Judger reared her head when I was in the locker room at the gym the other day. My gym in Medford is full of mostly young, mostly attractive, mostly white people. On this day, there were two young women getting dressed after their workout. I overheard one of them saying to her friend, “The facial cleanser was $150 but she gave it to me for only $70! Can you believe it? How do you like my new amazing blue headphones? Do you like them? Hey, do you want to go to Vegas in March? Dave wants us to go. I don’t know how I’m going to afford it but I’m going to go.” Maybe if you didn’t buy $150 facial cleanser, I thought…
I mostly can’t believe we live in a world where $150 or even $70 facial cleanser exists. Especially having just heard on the radio, moments before overhearing that conversation, that Haiti only received 2% of the foreign aid it was promised after the earthquake.
Anyhow, I was already kind of burning at their conversation, and walked over closer to the women so I could paint on my eyebrows in front of the mirror. Neither one even glanced at me, though the space was small and I was hard to ignore.
Maybe their ignoring was the result of long practice, a way of allowing strangers to have their privacy in a busy locker room. But I couldn’t help but feel, already fuming, that their act of ignoring me was intentional. Not an eye flicker, not a pause. “Don’t notice the bald woman without eyebrows. Whatever you do, DON’T SEE HER. If you notice her, she’s real. And if she’s real, then we live in a world where thin healthy young white women get cancer, and then I might get cancer. So just don’t acknowledge her, and it won’t be real.”
As I walked away, I noticed that one of them was wearing a Dana Farber marathon team tee shirt. I don’t know what that meant. It seemed ironic to me at the time. But then, you never really know what people are about.
I thought of all this. And I remembered the homeless woman from Harvard Square, from years ago, and how many people had passed her by before I, probably vulnerable to the Holy Spirit for a split second, stopped and gave her a dollar. And how grateful she was not for the dollar, but for the acknowledgment by one human being of another.
And I said a silent prayer for her, wherever she is.
My suffering is your suffering.
And my victory is your victory.
I give to just about every homeless person I pass now. I do it because I noticed, fairly recently (why did it take so long, when as a city dweller I pass homeless people just about every day? Because I, too, was stuffing and hiding and afraid, just like so many other folks), that when I didn’t give, I felt terrible after passing the person by. And I began to notice that when I did give, I never, ever felt that I had done the wrong thing.
I might have mixed feelings, giving cash, I might wonder if they would use my buck to do themselves further harm, but I wouldn’t have the sick, ashamed feeling (or the self-righteous feeling that is usually only masking shame) I almost always had for a few fleeting seconds when I ignored them. So, you might say I give for my own sake, my own well-being. But God is sneaky that way. She’ll use lots of tactics, like enlightened self-interest, to get us to be more human with one another, to love as we want to be loved.
-from "Your Victory is My Victory."
2 weeks ago