Small steps towards a distant goal


We may look different, but our hearts beat with the same dreams.

More and more I’ve enjoyed posting over here. I’ve been able (so far) to stay on task and limit myself to 500 words or less each and every time (if you’ve read this blog for awhile you know what an achievement that is!). Part of that focus was the result of deactivating my Facebook account and limiting my access to news by attending more baseball games than I can count. The challenge to maintain that focus will increase as I have reactivated my Facebook account in order to post pictures of my kids for close friends and family, I have peeked at the news, and we have just two weeks of the summer baseball season left after our just-finished four day stay in Independence, Missouri for a wood bat tournament.

The glimpses of news I’ve dared to take have been disheartening to say the least. Our nation’s ignorance of their fellow man, our nation’s history, and the inability to avoid having our emotions manipulated by a media and political administration seeking to divide is enough to make me want to pull out my hair. And at 45 I’m blessed to still possess all of my hair. I’d like to keep it that way.

So this post will not be below 500 words. You picked the wrong blog for that.

This post will also not be about any specific headline or issue of the day. I wouldn’t know where to start. Instead this post will be about division, and our seeming all-too-eager willingness to embrace that division instead of just one time considering the position of our neighbor and fellow man. I’m going to employ the use of two items I came across recently: one a video and the other an article I read on the First Things blog.

First, the video which asks us all:

If you could stand in someone else’s shoes,
Hear what they hear,
See what they see,
Feel what they feel,
Would you treat them differently?

You can click here to read about the history behind the development by Cardinal Avery Dulles of the following ten-point “interim strategy” for Catholics and Evangelicals to work together in the cause of Christ despite—and in the midst of—persistent and important differences. My intent today is to look at Dulles’ ten points not as a Catholic or Evangelical, but to take each one in light of who we are as fellow citizens and neighbors in a country that is quickly becoming the Divided States of America.

1. Correct misleading stereotypes.

Ask yourself: Do I stereotype those on the other side of the political aisle from which I reside? Do I derisively dismiss people of faith or a faith different than my own? What about those of no religious faith? Or a different sexual orientation? What do I think or say about people of a different skin color? While it’s true that some ethnicities may hold to that image, they may very well represent a departure from that particular group of people and be an unfair stereotype.

drive-thru2. Openness to surprise.

Ask yourself: When was the last time I talked with my neighbor(s)? Said something to the person working the drive-through window other than “I’d like fries with that.”? Do I hold back for any particular reason? What is it?

3. Holy rivalry.

Ask yourself: Do I strive to exceed my fellow neighbors, friends, or co-workers in wealth, power and prestige? Do I instead try to exceed them in virtues such as honesty, self-sacrifice, or care for the poor? Why not? Have I tried to live my life as an example of what it means to have faith in God’s Word and hope for a life beyond this present one? Am I a visible and silent witness to the counsel of Saint Paul when he said “Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10)? Can I imagine what the world would be like if I (we) actually heeded those words?

4. Overcome mutual suspicion. 

Ask yourself: Have I studied the past and/or history of a particular issue? Do I educate myself using a diversity of resources and not just what a quick Google search or my favorite cable news channel or celebrity personality says I should think? We must study the past before we can forgive it. Have I looked back upon past hurts in my own life and studied them from a perspective other than my own? Have I sought forgiveness? Have I forgiven myself?

5. Respect each other’s freedom and integrity. 

Ask yourself: Am I tolerant of the fact that beliefs or positions on an issue exist outside of my own? Do I incessantly rant on social media and hammer strangers in the comboxes of the world? Have I rolled my eyes and clucked my tongue at those who disagree with a position I hold? Do I insist that my friends and/or family hold my positions and if they do not, do I cease to acknowledge their existence as a friend or (in Facebook-speak) “unfriend” them?

6. Ecumenism of mutual enrichment.

Ask yourself: Ecumenism is defined as “the principle or aim or promoting unity among the world’s Christian churches.” What does unity mean to me when it comes to our nation? My community? How do I hold on to those things that make me a uniquely gifted individual and still relate to my neighbors/friends? Do I ask or insist that my friends or acquaintances give up their own unique characteristics or heritage in order to conform to my own? Do I strive for unity, or perpetuate the divide?

timtaylor_and_wilson7. Bonds of faith.

Ask yourself: What are the bonds that unite me to my neighbors? My friends? My family? To strangers? Are there basic commonalities we all share that bring us together, not just in times of duress, but also in calmer waters? How do we discover those common bonds?

8. Joint witness and social action. 

Ask yourself: If I believe that all life is sacred, do I hold any positions on various issues that may be seen as inconsistent or hypocritical? If I do not believe in the sanctity of life in any or all instances, how do I feel about those that do? What constitutes justice? How do I define a civil right and is that definition historically consistent or one that changes with the times? Are there things I can do to work towards a justice that is truly equal for all, and not for those whom the media or politicians deem a separate-but-equal class of citizens?

9. Peace and patience.

Ask yourself: Many of the problems that plague us as a citizenry and as a human race are as old as time and it’s easy to become frustrated by our fellow man’s inability to learn from the mistakes of the past…or by my mistakes. Do I grow increasingly frustrated and angry by the seemingly slow process of change? Or do I take the long view and realize that I am working towards improving my immediate surroundings and through a rippling effect changing the world for the benefit of my children, grandchildren and those whom I may never know in this lifetime?

10. Pray together.

Ask yourself: If I profess to be a Christian, do I actually practice my faith? Or is it simply a label I wear to belong to a social group or to use as a networking apparatus in my community to increase my bottom line? What do I pray for? Whom do I pray for? Do I pray alone? Do I pray with and for others and their needs? Am I selfless in my prayers? Or do I pray for the prosperity of myself and that others come to see things my way?

Granted, not everyone is going to relate to #10. And while prayer is defined as “an address (or petition) to God or a god in word or thought” there are those individuals who think prayer a fruitless endeavor. I respect this. It is no secret that as a Catholic I believe in and strive towards consistent prayer in order to unite us all in Christ and His teachings. I do this in the privacy of praying a rosary or the Divine Office, reading Sacred Scriptures, or even the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. I do this publicly in the communal prayer that is the Catholic Mass. I’ve prayed for you, dear reader, though you had no idea until this very moment.

As the article in First Things concluded:

Though first presented some twenty years ago, Avery’s ten rules remain relevant and urgent today. Perhaps, when taken together, they sound unduly modest to some, small steps toward a distant goal, but they are steps that move in the right direction.

I’ve asked you a lot of questions here today. Each of them are questions I have asked and continue to ask myself. Pick one of the set of ten for your own situation. Or just pick one question from one set of ten. But do begin to ask them of yourself.

In an speech given to a general audience on April 24, 2013, Pope Francis said

“In this period of crisis, today, it is important not to turn in on ourselves, burying our own talent, our spiritual, intellectual, and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but, rather to open ourselves, to be supportive, to be attentive to others. … Set your stakes on great ideals, the ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that make your talents fruitful.  Life is not given to us to be jealously guarded for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may give it in turn.”

What have you got to lose? What have you (and the world) to gain?


2 thoughts on “Small steps towards a distant goal

  1. Pingback: Convert Journal — 7 Quick Takes Friday (set #105)

  2. Pingback: Convert Journal – 7 Quick Takes Friday (set #105)

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