Go, and Do Thou Likewise

SamaritanDear Will:

I’m not going to rehash the ugliness of what happened recently in Charlottesville except to say that it put on full display the worst side of humanity. It was all so awful, in fact, that the Church was moved to issue a public statement reiterating its stance on the issue of racial discrimination and hatred: “No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.”

Weirdly, even that was not enough. Just two days later, the Church felt compelled to issue a further clarification inasmuch as some had twisted the previous release somehow to justify racial bigotry. The second statement was unequivocal: “White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.”

In the midst of all of this, I couldn’t help thinking that we would all be better off if more people simply went to Sunday School and paid attention. On the question of how to treat those with whom we may not agree—particularly those of a different ethnic or religious persuasion—Jesus taught very clearly:

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 [Jesus] said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. . . .

(I suppose I should pause here to point out that Samaritans were considered foreigners whose religious beliefs were abhorrent to the Jews.)

. . . and when [the Samaritan] saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

So on the question of how to treat those with different racial or ethnic or religious backgrounds, we might reasonably ask: “What would Jesus do?” And the answer is simple: He would be like the Samaritan.

PW

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Blown Away

Dear Will:

As I think I may have mentioned, my daughter Bryn left her job dancing for American Ballet Theatre and enrolled in BYU in the Fall. Although at first it was tough to adjust to Provo after having lived in Manhattan the previous year, Bryn took immediately to college. She loved the chance to explore new ideas, meet new people, and feel like a “normal” person for a change.

So imagine our surprise when she called us in October to inform us that she had accepted a job dancing for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Wellington. Starting December 9. A week before the end of the semester.

Suddenly we found ourselves trying to help Bryn figure out how to move to New Zealand without failing all of her classes. Our efforts were mostly ham-handed, I must confess, as we found it difficult—the amazing Internet notwithstanding—to determine where to live, how to set up a bank account, what to do about phone services . . . the list goes on.

Fortunately, we have a missionary serving here in our ward who is from (it’s hard to believe) Wellington, New Zealand. When he heard our exciting, perplexing news, he immediately contacted his family and just like that we had new friends in Wellington offering to help.

(An aside: If you haven’t met Elder Savaiinaea yet, you should make a point to do so. He is one of the most charming, delightful missionaries to come through here in a long time.)

It then occurred to me that there is a family from New Zealand right here in our stake. I barely know him, but I approached Brother Broederlow and told him of Bryn’s impending move. Within 24 hours he had reached out to friends in Wellington, and before I knew it I was corresponding with Leonie and Peter Brunt, who offered to pick Bryn up at the airport, show her around the city, and give her a place to stay until she figured out a permanent solution.

(Another aside: When Bryn departed LAX, we knew we’d have no way of corresponding with her until she reached out to us somehow. So you can imagine how I felt when I got an email from Leonie which included a picture of her and Bryn on a windy hill in Wellington. I wanted to cry. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know that someone was watching out for my little girl.)

Bryn and Leonie

I could go on for pages about the Brunts, but they are not the only people who have reached out to Bryn since she arrived in Wellington. When Christmas arrived, Bryn spent several days living with the Charions, a wonderful family she met at the ward there. While it was very hard for us to be apart on Christmas, it was wonderful to see Bryn gathered in by another loving family as she tries to find her place in a strange land far from home.

As I contemplate all of this, I am blown away. No one could reasonably expect this sort of selfless regard by strangers for my daughter’s welfare. The Savaiinaeas and Brunts and Charions are simply living the principles that Jesus taught—and as a consequence their actions cause me to feel His love as well. After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise.” Which is precisely what they have done.

What a blessing it is to associate with people such as this: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my brothers and sisters in a very real sense.

PW

Could It Be You?

Dear Will:

My wife and I recently snuck off for a weekend getaway to Mendocino. Words fail to describe how beautiful it is there. God definitely put some of his best artists to work there during the Creation.

We spent a couple of hours one afternoon browsing through the shops in town, including one which, as it turned out, sold a lot of hemp products and books on the occult (it also had a “smoke shop” upstairs—we decided we weren’t the target audience). While I was reading up on why hemp fabric makes superior clothing, a loud horn shook the town (it has only 1,100 residents, by the way). When we asked the shopkeeper what was up, she calmly told us that it was the alarm for the Volunteer Fire Department.

Sure enough, as we left the shop and rounded the corner, we discovered that the fire station was open and the truck was gone. I suppose I knew that there were still volunteer fire departments functioning, but I have to admit that I imagined the scene as it might have played out in an old black and white movie, with some guy leaping up from the barber chair, his face only half shaven. In truth, I suppose that in this case the volunteers were accountants, construction workers, retirees—people like you and me who had agreed to drop everything when the blast sounded. I’d guess that some do it for fun, some for the thrill or the glamor, but all of them are motivated to one degree or another by a desire to look out for one another. In that respect, I guess a volunteer fire department is the ultimate in neighborliness.

When Jesus taught about loving our neighbors, he told of the Good Samaritan, illustrating as he did so that we should cultivate a genuine concern for others regardless of their race or religion or gender or political persuasion. He wanted us to recognize the brotherhood that binds us rather than the differences which seem so often to pull us apart.

Such thoughts are especially on my mind lately as I see our nation tilting, inexorably it seems, toward war. Throughout the ages nations have struggled to find ways to peacefully resolve their differences, the result being that hatred and misunderstanding lead us to kill and be killed. I can’t say that I feel like there is a lot I can do about all that on the global stage, unfortunately; but at a minimum I know I can try to be a little kinder, a little more thoughtful, a little more aware of those around me—probably starting right next door.

Here is, perhaps, a silly example of what I’m talking about. My next door neighbor owns a doughnut shop, and periodically he shows up on our doorstep with a dozen—just because. Although he speaks little English, he has found a way to speak a language that my children especially understand. As a result, I don’t ever think about our obvious cultural differences; instead I try to figure out something nice I could do for him to reciprocate.

In short, I’m feeling like the alarm has sounded and it’s time for me to get up out of the barber chair and figure out who needs my help. Could it be you?

PW