Matching Outfit

I don’t want to make a big deal out of this because, after all, some day I may have a matching outfit.

I’m a member of a local fitness club. The difference between a fitness club and a gym is that members of a fitness club don’t feel obligated to reenact the slower moments from the original “Conan, the Barbarian” movie every time they work out. No yelling, tossing weights, or flirting with members of the opposite sex at the water fountain.

All of that to say that we’re a civilized lot.

I exercise early mornings most of the time. We have a regular crew who show up in the 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift. And we have pretty much juggled our routines so that we can minimize any interaction with each other whatsoever.

Our world was turned upside down recently when a new guy showed up. He came in and started acting like he was . . . I don’t know . . . a member or something. With reckless disregard for the rest of us, he just inserted himself into everything. As shocking as it may seem, he has even dared to venture on to my elliptical machine from time to time.

He looks like a nice enough fellow. You can tell that he was in shape at one time in his life. Unfortunately, his workout outfit is obviously from the glory days. It’s a little tight and comes up a little short in a few places. And don’t get me wrong, he’s always very neat — even down to the little triangle of hair emerging just below his lower lip. (Intensive internet research has revealed that such facial hair protuberance is called a “soul patch.” A fancy, spiritual name doesn’t move it up on my personal favorites list, however.)

And notice that I’m speaking of his ensemble in the singular. He either wears the same black shorts, black shirt, and black hat — or he has several identical sets of ill-fitting sportswear. It’s like he’s the Johnny Cash of sweat.

Normally, I don’t spend a lot of time obsessing about what some other guy is wearing. But the other day, the man in black cut me off as I was headed toward the assisted pull-up apparatus and then proceeded to tie up the machine for ten minutes.

I was forced to go on to other parts of my workout. Every minute or so I would glance over and all I could see was black. And it was then I noticed that no other male in the place was wearing matching clothes. I mean, most of us (I’ll emphasize here, MOST of us) had on matching socks, but no one color-coordinated beyond that. For example, I primarily wear greyish t-shirts. Some were darker at one time, some were white at one time, and some actually started out grey. A quick survey around the weight room verified my hypothesis. Guys who work out at 5 a.m. don’t wear matching outfits.

But here, disrupting my schedule, was one man who dared to swim against the current. What would motivate someone to do such a thing as this?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/kansir

Then it hit me. He is a victim of circumstance. Each day when he gets home, he dutifully launders his clothes. Once dry, he folds them neatly and places them in the drawer, ready for the next day. In the darkness of the early morning, he — like the rest of us — simply gropes around in the drawer and grabs the first thing he finds. In his case, it’s the matching black outfit.

In my case, the selections are a bit more eclectic. But what is important is my understanding that the new guy is pretty much just like me, except for that soul patch thing and the fact that he’s 30 years younger. He’s just a regular guy . . . wearing black.

And I wonder why discrimination still eats at the heart of who we are.

 

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/kansir

My Place on the Corner

My backpack leans against my thigh. Standing now for what seems hours, the bent metal frame presses into my gaunt flesh. It hurts. But it’s a pain that reminds me that I’m still here. Still standing. Still waiting.

People look at me and read my sign, then look away. I want to tell them, “I really would work for food.” But I don’t have that chance.

Occasionally a kind soul drops off a care package of food and water. I’m torn. I’ve worked my way into a prime location where hundreds of cars pass. Maybe one will bring that person I’ve prayed for who will offer me dignity and a chance to be what God meant me to be. So, no, even though I’m hungry, I won’t leave my post to eat from that manna sack.

The days are long, but not as long as the nights. I don’t sleep well. But as the sun sets, I move to my safe place, arrange my bed roll, and shut my eyes.

The morning breaks to another day. Some people refer to me and my friends as homeless — and hopeless. We may not have an address with a house and a yard. But we’re not hopeless. That’s why we stand and hold our signs and look for the one who wants us to be what God wants us to be.

* * *

In recent weeks, I’ve overheard several conversations where people targeted the less fortunate for their “lack of industry” and for the inconvenience they present. Before you gasp in horror, I want to confess that I’ve had those thoughts myself from time to time. Have you? Recently, I’ve come to wonder what it would be like to have little opportunity beyond staking out a street corner and reaching for the scraps that are thrown my way.

Sure, some people who “work” the streets take advantage of others. But surely you know that some people who “work” the offices in the buildings of gleaming steel and glass take advantage of others, too. The majority on the street and in the offices, however, are simply looking for their place.

photo courtesy of Constantin Jurcut

We all need a chance, we all need our hopes fulfilled. God knows that. God will provide that. But don’t we know that he wants us to be involved in the delivery?

 

And justice prevails . . .

I have to admit, I turned on CNN as soon as I received the newsflash on my phone.

The jury in the Casey Anthony trial was coming in with a verdict!

Moments later, millions of us watched as Ms. Anthony was found not guilty of all of the felony charges against her.  The four misdemeanors are largely insignificant at this point. With time already served, she will probably be free on probation immediately after her sentencing hearing.

Now I’m not writing to give my opinion on whether or not the jury was right. I honestly don’t know. In fact, I have an aversion to following cases that the media hypes to a frenzy and don’t know enough about the case to form an opinion.

What I am wanting to highlight is the feeling we all get when we watch justice in action.

If you believed Casey Anthony was innocent in the murder of her two year old daughter, Caylee, then you’re feeling pretty good about justice today.  However, if you’re one of the hundreds or thousands who have shared their opinion that Ms. Anthony is guilty, you may be thinking that this is a case of injustice. You point to a flawed system, a bad judge, biased jurors, a brilliant defense, or an inept prosecution team.

Justice prevailed in that court room in Orlando. Justice is a system that requires clear winners and losers. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the verdict, justice was done. Unless you were one of the jurors, your opinion doesn’t count.

The judge and the lawyers watched the system closely and followed very technical rules so that justice would be done. Jurors were watched closely and their lives were controlled and disrupted for weeks so that justice would be done. The laws that govern criminal trials were carefully crafted so that justice would be done.

My point is this:

A society that relies only on a system of justice to make things right
is rarely satisfied.

A justice system is a necessary element for order in our lives.  The tools of justice must be employed to guarantee our personal rights and for our personal protection.

But justice isn’t enough.

We must model and teach personal responsibility. We must build a desire in our hearts to love others and do right things. We must not lose sight of our hope that this world can be a better place.

There has to be more than justice for those moments when we believe that justice has failed.  For while justice is a great tool, it cannot ultimately satisfy all of our needs.

What fills the gap?

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more on this topic.

 

 

The problem with “social justice”, part 3

In my previous articles on the problem with social justice, I suggested that:

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

Since most of us have become very comfortable with the idea of justice being a very good thing, I went on to say that:

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

That last idea is somewhat troublesome for those who see themselves pursuing justice on behalf of others. What could be more altruistic than making certain that people everywhere have access to sufficient food, clean water, medical care, and safety from oppression? Obviously, there is nothing more noble or needed than those things.

I am suggesting, however, that there is a better way to bring about widespread change in the ways that resources and human rights are distributed among all people.

Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.

Justice demands a winner and a loser. Justice enforces a standard. In regard to social justice, it insists that something be taken away from those who have and be given to those who have not. The short term result is good. Yet, as history details, the action must be repeated over and over again. Our individualistic assertion of rights exceeds our ability to embrace the more divine leanings towards good for all.

Until “those who have” become willing to divest for the benefit of “those who have not,” the problem will never be fully resolved. And that’s why social justice is problematic.

Still, the concept of justice as a self-centered behavior is hard to accept. In the next article, we’ll take a look at why our tendencies to impose our own welfare are so strong — even in a context of goodwill toward others.