Sunday, March 30, 2014

the eye of the beholder

I ran across Mahatma Gandhi's seven social sins the other day.

You undoubtedly know them as well as I do.  In this instance, though, familiarity may breed insight.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice
 The list sounded very familiar to me when I first encountered it in the late 1960s.  The reason was obvious.  The words are essentially the teachings of Jesus as found in the gospels.That is why this story of a meeting between the Christian missionary, E. Stanley Jones, and Gandhi is so telling.

The story goes something like this.  Jones asked Gandhi: “Mr Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ.  I love Christ.  It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”  He added: “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

And that is one reason Gandhi believed that worship without sacrifice was a deadly sin.  By focusing primarily on God and forgetting the daily needs around us, we turn our worship into hypocrisy and blasphemy.

Let me introduce you to someone.  Anna Guadalupe Cisneros Martinez -- the woman on the left in the photograph.

Lupe is my neighbor; she and her family live across the street from me in Villa Obregon.  I have known her, her husband, and her son for five years.  But this is not a story about me.  It is about Lupe.

She works as a maid at at a local hotel that is frequented by Americans and Canadians in the winter.  In February, one of the residents, Marie, a member of our local congregation, noticed that Lupe had an artificial right eye.  Her brother had put out her eye when she was 4.  A toy was the culprit.

What Marie really noticed was that the eye was not fitting well.  Her first husband had an artificial eye, and she could tell that Lupe's eye was in need of replacement before the socket was permanently damaged.

Instead of simply telling Lupe that she needed to do something, a group of the hotel residents pooled their cash and started raising donations from family, friends, and other residents.  At least, 34 people -- if not more, by now -- donated. 

The cost of a new eye was well out of the financial reach of Lupe.  She is paid well by Mexican maid standards.  But "well" is a relative term
when the cost of the new eye and its fitting is $2,000.  And it needed to be done in Mexico City.  That means transportation, meals, and lodging for at least a week -- perhaps two.

But between February and last week, the group had raised enough money to schedule the appointment with the eye clinic.

You may wonder what my role is in all this?  I simply came in at the end when all of the hard work was done.  The group wanted to hand the money over to someone who could then see that it got to Lupe and the doctor.

Let me reiterate one fact.  Lupe is my neighbor.  For me to simply hand her the money and wish her buena suerte would have been a bit cold.

So, I nosed my way into the operation.  I will fly to Mexico City with Lupe and her son, Alex (you met him in moving to mexico -- a few customs), on 6 April.  Even though I am no expert when it comes to Mexico City transport, I will settle them into their hotel, and then accompany them on the Metro to the eye clinic the next day.

I am really excited for Lupe.  She has not had a new eye in 10 years, and we are all hoping that the socket is still in satisfactory shape to take on a new eye.

To Marie who saw the need, to those who joined her in that concern, and to the group who were willing to take time from their fun in Villa Obregon to help meet that need, I say thank you.

Gandhi's words echo through the deeds of these people. 
“If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

I am pleased to know a group of people who worship through sacrifice.

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