John’s Gospel today is a familiar story. Jesus heals the blind man. Reading it this week, what struck me was the way he and his family were judged by everyone. He was blind; therefore, either he or his parents must be sinners. I wondered, “How often do I make these snap judgments about people?” “How often am I the Pharisee?” Shamefully, more often than I like to admit.
I recently read an article from Salon (3/10/14) that really made an impression: “When researchers at Princeton University showed two groups of viewers the same video of a little girl answering questions about school subjects, they told the first group that her parents were affluent professionals. They told the second group that she was the daughter of a meat packer and a seamstress. The girl, named Hannah, performed right at grade level on the videotaped test, answering some questions correctly and missing others. But when asked about her performance, the first group, primed to believe she was wealthy, felt that she had performed above grade level. The second group, primed to believe she was not, felt that she had performed below. It was the same video, mind you—the same girl, answering the same questions, in the exact same way—but their conclusions were totally different.”
As this article points out, one of the judgments we often are quick to make is about the poor among us. They are lazy, made bad decisions, or should just tighten their belts or pull themselves up by their boot straps. Those in our church who volunteer at Shepherd’s Crossing, the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, or Catholic Charities know that these preconceived notions are, more than likely, not true. A few minor changes in our own lives, and we, too, could find ourselves in similar circumstances.
Our church does an excellent job of helping out those less fortunate with our time, talent, and treasure. Though a wise parishioner who participates in our Neighbor to Neighbor meals for the food insecure said to me, “It’s a lot different writing a check than it is meeting people face to face.” Yes, and it is more rewarding.
The Social Concerns Committee is expanding our Neighbor to Neighbor Program to provide meals for children at the Ogden Community Center on Thursday evenings. We have gotten a fantastic response from parishioners willing to give their time and treasure and meet these amazing kids each week. Sharing eye contact and a smile, seeing their delight when we are carrying pizza boxes, and watching a young boy eat seven sloppy joes is life changing and validates the fact that we are all children of God, and there should be no barriers between us.
~ Sherry Watts, K-6 Coordinator