A booster shot is in order.
After the Ahmaud Arbery trial, the rush of a full-tilt boogie family Thanksgiving here on the island, and the regular, relentless press of work, a booster of some sort is clearly needed to restore my energy and sanity. But I am talking here about the Covid booster shoot that is being pushed at present as an even new variant is emerging.
My wife found out that the Moderna booster shot was being given at the CVS located in the Target department store just over the causeway in Brunswick. So we made a mad Monday dash to the Target….pronounced Tar-jay in tony St. Simons.
It was amazingly efficient and quick, getting that booster shot. The workers in the pharmacy were so kind and helpful, getting me checked in, forms completed, with a quick hypodermic shot to the arm. The attendant asked if I wanted the shot in the left or right arm. Please….. Always the Left! It was over quickly, allowing me to tune into Bill Gates almost immediately with my microchip in full operation.
I decided to take a spin around the store as I have not been in one in just about two years. It’s sort of like going to the zoo, except the animals talk to you.
I used to go to the Walmart in Ellijay near my cabin in the north Georgia mountains, always coming away amazed at the spectrum of humanity I had just observed. Having been trained in anthropology as a participant/observer which tunes one into the conversations between the natives, it became a field day for observation. For the sake of not appearing judgmental around class and education (my natural prejudice that I work on to curb and correct), I will leave my comments hidden in the vault of my journal.
I do want to note a older white man, a little older than me, who functioned as if he were designed to be a greeter. In the church, this is called a spiritual gift, the gift of hospitality. If he were faking sincerity the way I trained my Sigma Chi brothers for Rush, he was a master. He made me feel like I was welcome in my visit to this time and space continuum…something that is not easily accomplished in my book.
And as I was leaving the store, a young black man with a Santa cap on top of his dreads, went out of his way to make sure I was safely maneuvering my path with the cane I was using, into the waiting Highlander. He was so cheerful and helpful that it positively punctuated my visit with a good feeling of having been there. That is what we call customer experience in the healthcare field, which is of high value, just below surviving the stay.
On the way back home, on Hwy 17, known as the Golden Isles Highway, we approached the Torras Causeway that would take us back to the island we call home. There is a message board there at the intersection, normally used to advertise upcoming events or important messages. This time there was something different:
Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly Glynn County.
My biblical scholar readers know that this comes from Micah 6:8. That’s in the Old Testament or, as it should be known, as the Hebrew Bible. The prophet Micah lines out in simple terms what we are called to do as human beings who desire to be faithful. This simplicity is seductive for it is on the far side of complexity, something I have always longed for. The sign was put up by our Glynn County clergy, which is a mix of religious traditions, including Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. It’s a good faith message to our community following the trial and verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery killing, an event that strangely brought us together in a new way.
I have to admit I went flush with pride when I saw the message, knowing it was sponsored by the Glynn County clergy, a group that I have just begun to know well. They have seen sponsoring a community effort to promote unity in the face of this disruption of a high-profile trial. I participated in several prayer vigils throughout the month of trial activities and there was a good spirit in the group, as I have written about previously. We are sponsoring interracial gatherings with meals that provide a mix that doesn’t happen in Glynn under normal circumstances. The conversations that occurred in the courthouse square need to continue, with widening scope and deeper dialogue. I have a good feeling about the future of this effort.
Justice, Mercy, Humility.
In a previous article, I mentioned the need for a hard-nosed focus on justice. It is something that gets driven, by insisting on fairness and an equitable share of justice for all. In the past, there is a legacy here in south Georgia where that didn’t happen, not just along racial lines, but class as well. I witnessed the community rising up to demand a better system of justice here, writing-in a candidate for District Attorney that resulted in the removal of the incumbent. She now is under indictment in her handling of the Arbery case. Everyone wants our community to be fair for all, at least in spirit. That’s about as American as I can imagine. Justice for all! For ALL!
The love of mercy is a recognition that we all are fragile, and that we all fail at times in our efforts to be kind and compassionate. We all require a full measure of grace, which we ask for ourselves, but then must extend to others. A community of mercy looks with compassion on all folks as they are trying to make their way through this life. I was moved by the active mercy that was extended to the Arbery family as they had to go through the excruciating pain of seeing the video of Ahmaud being killed. The tape was played over and over. Imagine that person being your child and seeing the horror over and over. The community was amazingly loving to Ahmaud’s mother and father, and to the extended family. Glynn County community did itself proud through this. Mercy, indeed.
“Walking humbly” is the third admonition coming from Micah. Humility gets a bad rap in our culture, sometimes taken to mean self-deprecation. I heard a great definition of “humble” by a musician being honored recently at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The artist was LL Cool J who said he was humbled to receive this award. But he went on to say that his image of humble comes out of a recognition that he needs others. In producing music, he said that he knows he needs the gift of others to collaborate with his own talent.
I like that. A team, in basketball, football, or soccer, or in the world of business, depends on a generous collaboration of a variety of talents in order to produce a desired outcome.
Similarly, in the life of a city, we need a variety of folks to make it work well for ALL people. We need judges who are fair, District Attorneys who meet out justice fairly, police who treat people fairly. We need clergy who raise the prophetic voice of justice and mercy. We need doctors and nurses who bring a healing touch. We need educators who offer our children and young people a chance to develop. These are just a few of the various vocations that are required to have a healthy, vibrant community. Humility means realizing that you are a part of a bigger whole, something that seems to be missing in our country. Humility demands that you recognize that you are a part of a larger organic reality that depends on you and your participative contribution. In return the promise it that you get a healthy community in which to live.
Finally, I noticed that the Micah quote was missing a rather crucial piece of the prophetic scripture. The verse actually concludes “with your God”, that is: To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
And there’s the rub…or the problem. How is one defining that God? What is your image of God? It requires a bit of courage to seriously ask oneself that question. Dare you do it? Pause for a moment, ask yourself honestly, what is the image of God that you carry around inside?
For some, it is the Creator God that is the source of life for All people, making us all children of God, regardless of our particular belief system.
For some, God is a Spirit that unites us, across boundaries that might divide us, making us One.
My image of God was expanded by the admonition of Paul in Galatians in the strong affirmation that in Christ, the reality that binds us together, there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female. That verse blew up any segregation that might be used to separate us.
Many of us inherit an image, bequeathed by our parents, family, our community of origin. For many, that image is largely unexamined, just coming with the territory from which we were formed. While one may not call this image “God”, each one of us has a world view, that is, how we see the lay of the land in which we live. For some, it includes a divine being, a higher power. Some resist that designation, but everyone has an image of what is going on in this world and what one needs to do in order to be a part of it.
The hard truth is that we all decide just what our personal image of God is, what is our ultimate concern, our world view. This may be forged in a fiery interaction between our individual experience and the tradition of a particular community of faith. Or it my simply be picked up “off the shelf” with little attention paid to a critical examination.
To be honest, some of us are serving a God that looks a lot like us, and favors us, our kind, over people who may look differently than ourselves, claiming some kind of superiority. Some serve a God that they image as their possession, someone who they can manipulate or control with certain behavior or incantation of prayers. And I have experienced a number of folks who use their God as a weapon against those who are not like them, or share their beliefs.
And again, here’s the rub, or where the friction and sparks fly. Conflicting images of God produce different belief systems, which can result in in deep divisions, even wars. In our country, we purposefully decided not to choose a “state supported” religion. Rather, we constitutionally allow people to believe what they will. This sounds wonderful on paper, but the knives and AK-47s come out when push literally comes to shove. The issue of abortion is the current issue of the chopping block as I am writing this article, and one can hear the swords being drawn.
“Under God” is a wonderful aspiration for our country. But perhaps we need a booster shot of tolerance for folks who see the lay of the of the land a bit differently than we do. Perhaps a booster of grace for those that operate out of a different image of God than we do. Our Union of states, that just celebrated a common Thanksgiving, may need a booster shot of love and compassion for ALL the people who share this land we call home.
A booster shot of justice, mercy, and humility. Just what the doctor ordered. Blessings.