Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, p27
In an earlier blog, I believe I have told the story from my teenage years of being overly critical of a neighbor in a conversation with another.
Immaturity easily besets an attitude of superiority. I mocked this man for being so strange. I poked fun of his situation. Both prosecutor, jury, and judge of his soul, I had fun at his expense and asked the question, “how can he not get that he is so weird?”
What followed from the audience of my unjust rebuke was a peeling back of the curtain of this man’s unfortunate life. I was enlightened about the mental abuse of a father. I was informed of a terrible accident which had almost claimed his life. It was revealed to me that those who knew this man as a youth never could have envisioned that he would be able to hold a steady job – no matter how menial – and to be married and a father for him was a Herculean accomplishment.
It put me in my place. I’ve likely deserved to be put in my place with such force since.
If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness ~ Hugo, p14
This man had no sin against me. I mocked him for not being “normal.” It was I who created the pit and pushed him in within the confines of my courtroom and doled out the unjust judgment and condemnation that he would suffer disdain from me.
Every blade has two edges; he who wounds with one wounds himself with the other ~ Hugo, p1237
It was a great beginning of a learning experience. I’d love to report here that I since have treated all humanity justly – but I am still a work in progress and can return to this weakness when provoked by pride or fear. The one comfort as I look back on my 40 years, however, is that I have spent more time as I learn and grow defending the defenseless instead of persecuting those who have persecution enough in the life they live.
One caution of advice I have always provided my children – to atone for the wrongs which I committed in my youth – is to constantly encourage them to look for the lone wolf at school, dance, orchestra or church, and befriend them.
This piece of advice brings some very curious children to our door. But thankfully my children fully see the issue at hand, and while compassionate, do not follow after the insecure poorly chosen actions of their friends. But so far as I can witness, they do their best to extend love and support, without risking their own security.
And as I witness my children’s abilities to befriend the friendless, and to deal more justly with others than I did as a child, my heart is redeemed from the unjust behaviors of my past and I am grateful for their example to their father who has been both the lone wolf and the “society” who poked fun of the less fortunate.
The world will deliver much despair to your doorway. Some imagined. Some actual. Some so outside of your circle of influence as to be laughable.
What separates “average” from greatness is our ability to focus on how we can help others, and in so doing, help ourselves.
Money is fleeting. Some days we have more than others. But giving of our time and talents to others is an investment which perpetually provides a great return regardless of the DOW industrial average, the annual tax rate, or any other arbitrary foundation-less measure. It is how we purchase our souls from the despairs of life and Hell.
Quotes taken from gavroche.org/
- The Power of Forgiveness (learnactshare.com)
- Redemption in the Modern Era (findingpositiveperspective.wordpress.com)
- Les Miserables: The Bishop and the Redemption of Jean Valjean (Fr. Gordon J. MacRae)