. . . Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn. Isaiah 58: 7-10
. . . your light must shine before others. Matt 5:13-16
Who are “your own?”
We do not lack today for tools that let us define ourselves by the number of people who choose to become our “followers” and our “friends.” We ask very little of those who do no more than click on a link to “follow” or “be the first to like.”
“Sharing” in lives lived on the internet does not necessarily require us to “share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; or clothe the naked when we see them.” It simply means it’s now cool to take the conversations we used to have with a colleague or two at the water cooler and consign it to the great unwashed online.
We have steadily, perhaps unintentionally, devalued the coin of discipleship by letting the active verbs of value-driven engagement become the passive, faux experience of online engagement. The price of admission is simply the ability to use a computer.
To be a “follower” once meant getting up and going out. It meant standing up and speaking out. It meant a willingness to pay the price of discipleship. Sometimes, that meant the full price of life itself.
It is the price being paid on the streets of the Middle East in recent weeks by ordinary people driven, not by Facebook and Twitter, but by extraordinary courage and desperation.
What, if anything, does this have to do with us in Hawaii this legislative session as social needs collide with political and financial reality? As leaders in Egypt grapple with the consequences of turning their back on their own, we in Honolulu are confronted by front page headlines screaming of cuts to essential social services.
Will we let ourselves turn our back on our own?
There will be more homeless, more hungry, more naked, more unable to work, or fend for themselves or send their children to school. If not now, then certainly we can expect to encounter them in ever greater numbers in the years ahead. We are asking our legislators to help us deal with our mortality and our morality. From death with dignity to civil unions, we ask our legislators to make decisions that impact us all. And we praise or pillory them, depending on where we stand on the issue.
But does not being an elected official somehow absolve us from the burden of responsibility as citizens of the aloha state? Presenting a lei is easy. What is hard is coming out from our cones of safe silence in our professional and community roles and presenting ourselves on a variety of platforms. What is hard is letting ourselves express our love and our compassion — the alchemy of aloha –-by being visible about where we stand on issues. That is much harder.
But it is its own reward. The public expression of our principles and our contributions of time, talent and money to those who are doing all they can to feed, house, clothe, educate and represent those in need: this and more make aloha an active verb. (And you can do all of this online!)
And this, says Isaiah, is what will make our light break forth like the dawn.
It might even shine before our legislators and help them make the tough decisions about what’s best for the community.
Go to www.equality808.com for an easy way to submit testimony on the civil unions hearing in the House on Tuesday February 8 or on any other bill you support or oppose http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/emailtestimony.