The power of others

John - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Entered on September 27, 2008

I believe in the power of “others.” At the most primary level, we are each here because of two “others.” But, my belief goes beyond biology. Whether one acknowledges it or not, there is a complex network of “others” that sustains an individual.

In our fast-paced and distracting lives, many fail to see the delicate web of favors and goodwill that we receive from “others.” Each of us has a uniquely personal, yet universal “safety net.”

It can range from simple acts of kindness to complex interactions. One example is someone holding a door for you at your office building as you arrive in the morning loaded down with files and a briefcase.

It is the volunteer basketball coach who leads a young team not just in learning the game but in becoming better people.

Take a moment. Stop and think about all the actions of others that were helpful or responded to a need. You may begin to understand.

I grew up in one of our country’s “Bible Belts” in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. During my teenage years at a public high school, many students and a few teachers worried that I wasn’t “saved.” They claimed that I needed to believe in the grace of Jesus Christ. A good life and hard work were not enough. However, this “invisible” grace had little to no meaning for me.

In the summer of 1981, I was an intern in Washington, D.C. I got a chance to do some personal research at the Library of Congress, and I stumbled upon the following words from a Flemish Catholic scholar, Edward (Skill-a-bakes” or “Skill-uh-becks”) Schillebeeckx, in his book Christ, the experience of Jesus as Lord (1980). He wrote:

“Any man who does not have an egotistic attitude to life, who is aware that he constantly lives by virtue of the favor and goodwill of others, experiences in a variety of ways that there is such a thing as ‘grace.’ Man achieves this identity precisely in being confirmed by others (within structures and within a society which makes this possible). And in this solidarity many people will sometimes be able to experience a deeper mystery of universal mercy.”

Suddenly, the word “grace” became vital for me. It had a new power that continues to this day.

Since 1990, I’ve had both the pleasure and challenge of parenting two children with special needs. As they grew, I saw the “favor and goodwill of others” in action in our community, church and schools. One example was an occupational therapist and child caregivers working as a team with our autistic child in preschool. They were essential to our child’s progress.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said: “… For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Actually, both the grace and kingdom are among us.

I do not discount the power of an individual human being. But, without “others,” the individual would not survive or thrive. This I believe is the true power of “others.”