For years, Andy has worked with Wal-Mart. He was considered a profitable and cooperative employee. Then the management changed. As a result, the new manager and Andy didn’t click. Eventually, when the store needed to trim their employees, Andy was laid off.
He was a hard worker who doesn’t like sitting and watching TV. He doesn’t play video games. He likes to work. When his family came to me regarding their problem with Andy, I was amused as they explained their dilemma. Without other work, yard care has become his speciality. We have one day a week when trash and rubbish are picked up. This included leaves, yard trimmings, branches and limbs. Garbage pick-up is different days.
When the trash man comes, Andy insists that something must be in the container. He has trimmed their trees until there will soon be problems. With equal enthusiasm, he has trimmed the neighbors’ trees and bushes. Still there are days that his parents must allow him to trim bushes which don’t need to be trimmed so there will be something for the trash man to collect.
“Is there somewhere that he can work, a volunteer job?” the family asked. “Maybe the church can use him.” Special Gathering meets at a large church with lots of needs. Later that week, the building superintendent–at the church where we meet–was asked if they would be able to have Andy come once or twice a week to police the building, picking up trash and leaves. He and his father wanted to do this as volunteers.
The superintendent almost jumped with joy. A long time member, George, had come every morning for 25 years to pick up trash and leaves. When George had a stroke, he could no longer come. A big void was created. The church was in dire need of a person to come and help with this job.
Andy is not the only person within the special needs community who reacts to a loss of job in this way. In fact, he was not even the exception. Usually, people who are developmentally disabled want to work. Occasionally, people with disabilities are looked on as freeloaders. Yes, they do receive Social Security benefits. Nevertheless, they desire to work and pay taxes. When they are not able to find a job, they are willing to volunteer for and pick up the slack in the organizations that have value to them.
Each of us need to feel value. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.” Isn’t the meaning clear? We can measure the amount of love we have for others by the volume of love we have for ourselves. This teaching seems to stand against the other teachings of Jesus. Giving ourselves away is a central theme of Christianity; so how could Jesus mean what he said? Perhaps, the translator made a mistake. Maybe, the gospel writers weren’t standing it the correct spot on the mountain while Jesus spoke to clearly hear his words. Could it be that a mouthy sea-gull flew over the mount as Jesus spoke, thus garbling his words?
The most logical explanation is that Jesus meant what he said. As a person, I need to love the face in the mirror to be able to fully and truly love other people. In the same way that people with disabilities feel better about themselves when they become valued members of their community, each of us need the same spurring to react to my neighbor in kind and loving ways.
Does this sound too simple to be effective? Do you think this is the end of the formula to self-worth, or merely a small step forward? Do you believe that I’ve completely missed the point? If so, what did Jesus mean by this declaration?