This I Believe
Sr. Fran Sweeney, a great leader of the church community my family was a part of for 20 years, recently died. Her rising re-enforces my belief in Individuals, Responsible Choice, Trust, and Interdependence.
These beliefs are centered on my family and church teaching. As a teenager, I read Steinbeck’s East of Eden. One character struggles with the definition of the Jewish word, Timshel. What does it mean when the Creator says, “Timshel”, to the people? Does the Creator mean,
• Thou Must?
• Thou Should?
• Thou Might?
It means “Thou Mayest”. Our Creator wants us to choose.
To make good choices, I have to trust. Choices are not always straight-forward. Good and not-so-good consequences intertwine. The greatest example is when I and my children went through my separation and divorce. I had to tell Mom and Dad and I had to be a better parent. Great church friends and family loved and supported me and my children.
Over the past few years, I have made other choices that required great trust and interdependence:
• I retired at 55 so I could help individuals and organizations strengthen their skills to grow. For two years, many friends helped me prepare for this new journey.
• Two days after I retired, I met my future wife. Thirty-five days later I proposed and she accepted. We trusted that together and with friends we could handle the difficult issues.
• I work with people in substance abuse recovery. We provide safe, secure, affordable apartments and we create an interdependent community. We help each other grow. Sometimes, the community chooses to have a person leave, because the person is not committed to growth.
Privileges throughout my life have enabled me to make choices with almost total freedom: school, work, family, where to live, retire, etc. I was born a healthy, white male, intelligent, with a good Mom and Dad who were wealthy. The vast majority of people with whom I now work, were abused or severely neglected as children. Their range of choices was limited; they did not learn how to make good choices; they did not trust themselves, let alone others. They looked for love and physical and emotional peace in all the wrong places.
Individual and cultural oppression by family, friends, neighbors, community, and society negatively impacts too many people. Examples of oppressive treatment include:
• Jewish people by Christians for two thousand years.
• African slaves up to the Civil War; the on-going legal segregation for 100+ years.
• The blaming of poor people regardless of race and origin for society’s troubles.
• The absence of universal health insurance.
When society consciously and unconsciously oppresses, individuals and groups find it difficult to make good choices, trust, and live interdependently. A society that fosters individuals, responsible choice, trust, and interdependence is what I believe and how I wish all of us could live. Our society will never be perfect, and we do not have to accept lifelong social oppression. “Timshel”.
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