This morning I am reading Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker) and came across these words quoting Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306-373):
“The inhabitants of the world fill in the common need from the common excess. We should rejoice in this need on that part of us all . . . Our need for everything binds us with a love for everything.”
I’m thinking today of the World Vision Christmas catalog that my young daughter Luthien and I were paging through a few days ago. You could buy medicine for sick children, food for hungry ones, animals to provide a livelihood for destitute families – and while the pictures were vibrant with joy and my daughter was enthusiastically deciding what she wanted to give, I found myself crying as page after page lengthened the list of needs. There is no way our family can give enough to meet all those needs.
But what a preposterous idea! Our family is one small piece of this circle of love and need. How often I forget, in this individualistic culture, that no one person or family or group is charged with saving the world. Neither is anyone only needy or only loaded with gifts for others. We are all of us needy, and we can each give something – a smile, a well-spoken word, a sum of money, a box of food, an hour of our time – as we affirm the life, the need, the beauty, love, and pain that make up the reality of the world in which we live.
May we all be courageous enough to live more faithfully within this circle of need and love, of vulnerability and generosity.