Eventually, on days when the bus was crowded, someone was always left standing in the aisle of the bus. That kid was David.
David was what we might describe today as “socially awkward.” He was defenseless to navigate most social situations. He kind of just climbed on the bus and sat down in the nearest available seat, and if displaced, stood up and remained standing. I never saw him complain. He just did it.
Obviously, he became a target.
The mean kid in the back of the bus called him names, insulted his sister and his parents, and one time when the mean kid was especially mean, he spit right on David’s back while he was standing in the aisle. I can remember sitting there, horrified as this unfolded, knowing that what was being done was unjust, but not quite having the courage to stand up to the mean kid. So I did nothing.
One might think that things would be different today, but just last week I heard about some of my neighbors who are being picked on. I am talking about my actual neighbors, real people who smile and wave at me when I walk by them on my way to work.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to be merciful, as God is merciful. Do not judge, so that we will not be judged. Do not condemn, so that we will not be condemned. This all makes perfect sense. In short, He tells us to “Christian-up.”
In the state where I live, legislation has been proposed to force law enforcement officers to target my neighbors by how they look, and to detain them and turn them over to federal officers if they cannot readily prove that they came here by legal means. And worse yet, that same legislation would make it a criminal act if I lift a hand to help my neighbors in any way.
Now I know that immigration law and immigration reform are complicated issues, and there is a great deal of emotion, mostly in the form of fear and anger, expended in these areas. The legality of my neighbor’s presence in this country is at question. What is not at question is that my neighbor is a real human being, like myself, who just wants to do the best he can for his family. Like David, he just wants to ride the bus. I won’t “judge” others in my community by trying to compare them to the mean kid on the bus, because they, too, have families they are trying to support in the best way that they can.
However, I cannot help but think of this legislative bill, and others that attempt to legislate out of fear and anger, as a big hocker directed toward my defenseless neighbor’s back.
It’s time for me to Christian-up. For my neighbor. For David.
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