Compassion as a spiritual exercise; day 19 of Ramadan

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

If you didn’t know already, the weather globally has been a bit topsy-turvy this summer. We’re in the midst of a weather event known as El Niño, and depending on where you’re at globally it might be warmer or colder or wetter or drier than usual. With that being said, in my part of the weather it has been a very very wet summer.

Subsequently a good portion of the activities with my students have been onsite. There have been warm summer days, and so I do what I can to play with my students in the park or simply walk around our building for a period of time.

Today didn’t seem like it was going to rain and so I thought I’d have some time to do some outdoor activities with my students…so I thought, but during our time out in the community it started raining, not a lot, but enough to cancel any outdoor activities once we returned. One of my students was alarmed and frightened by the thunder and lightning, and so he vocalized it and a short while later I went back to the unit with him for remainder of the school day.

Compassion by definition is the “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” I believe I have within me a good deal of compassion to put out there to others, I have an intuitive nature and a good sense of communication via body language, and thankfully I have a job where if a student is feeling unsafe I can help get her or him out of the classroom in a pretty timely matter without any fuss from the teacher I work under or our mutual superiors.

I want to live life intentionally and compassionately, to be aware of the needs of others and doing what I can to help them out. I realize that I can’t address everyone’s needs nor can I reach everyone for that matter, but still I want to be able to help out others tangibly in community.
Acting compassionately and meeting the needs of others is one of the central things tied to my belief system as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist, because there are a lot of things that point to Jesus doing as well as being during his time spent here on earth.
I used to have the mindset that I would help others out when I was fiscally in the black, that I wouldn’t be hurting when I did give of my resources. Yet, and I do believe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I went against that perspective because I realized that I would never truly be in the black given my field of work and that my resources didn’t only pertain to money but also my gifts and also my time. I resolved then and there to give of what I have to others, to live semi-frugally, and to give what I have to others.
As of late I am doing what I can to live with even less than what I already have. It’s purifying in a way to assess what you have and what you can easily do without and then give it away to those who are in need, this act of compassion certainly is a symbiotic relationship between the giver and the receiver.

So with all that being said, compassion was my keyword on this 19th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The Compassionate One, who extends his compassion upon humanity and helps us extend that compassion to others. May we not be stingy with our resources in this life, may we give unto others who are less fortunate than we are, and may we remember that our lives are not our own.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

If legalism had a face I would kick it in the teeth

This is the meaning of true love – to give until it hurts – Mother Teresa

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely abhor legalism.

Legalism is defined as “strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit”

I sometimes work with people who are legalistic, and their self-proclaimed legalism keeps them from giving freely out of their abundance. It can be rather disheartening to see these people give sparingly and with an ungrateful heart, my thoughts usually are “then WHY even help?” In a way, the people I know remind me of the Bible story of Ananias and Sapphira who decide to sell a piece of property and give the profits to the church, but the clincher is that they bring the money forward and say this is the entirety of what it was sold for and yet they held back a portion of what they made for themselves! So their intention was to hold back some of it in a dishonest fashion, and when they lied to the apostles God revealed they had lied and stuck both of them dead.

Now I’m not saying God will strike you dead for lying, but there is something to giving out of one’s abundance in a stingy way, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) and with what we can share with others God delights in our giving, but I’m quite certain he would rather have us give because we want to and not because we have to, let alone giving without love in our hearts.

But I also combating legalism through the lens of the Prophet Micah as it says in Micah 6:8:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
– To act justly
– to love mercy
– to walk humbly with your God
I may not be the audience Micah was speaking to, but I think there’s something to acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. When brought to the light, being legalistic and having legalism goes against acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, so maybe with this passage found in the Old Testament it can serve as a litmus test to figure out if we’re doing right by God as well as others; if our hearts and minds are in check for what we’re doing and the attitude to which we’re doing things.

We should give out of love; love for God and a love for others, and sometimes it’s easy to see that we’re doing this and other times it is difficult. Regardless we need to give for the right reasons and not be caught up in our own legalism as well as others.

~Nathanael~