(EDITOR'S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on issues facing us today. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)
Have you noticed what we say when we meet someone we know? First we inquire, "How's it going?" When someone asks me that, I want to find a park bench or coffee shop and sit and talk. There are stories within each of us that need to be shared.
Sometimes we need to share news of celebrations. We celebrate new life in the birth of a child, a graduation, a move or a new job. We unwrap the promises of a hope filled future and share them with each other.
There also are wounded and broken places within us that will never get better alone. Only significant conversations allow us to reach places still tender to the touch. It's a sacred time when you can speak of those shattered dreams you've had ... perhaps for you and your spouse who died last year. Sharing the story isn't easy, perhaps you shed a tear or two, but tenderly some of those pieces mend together because someone cares, and you feel better in the process.
Eventually there comes a time when you are able to move a few of those broken pieces and share the rest of the story. That your spouse was addicted to prescription painkillers and you didn't know, and an overdose took her life.
We all have experienced pain and sorrow in our lives, when our heart is shattered into tiny pieces that we think will never mend. We survive illnesses and disabilities of all kinds, abuses, accidents, disasters, challenges and failures. Each of us have found solace in a listening ear and a caring hand extended in friendship. Now the circle continues and another disclosure is treated with great care.
This is the gift of community. To share the strength you receive from someone else, when they gently hold your wounded heart in their hands, and help glue some of the pieces back together.
Our faith tells us that we are to help bear one another's burdens. The Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity is found in the Holy writings of nearly every religion. It often is regarded as the most concise and general principle. It is why our faith matters.
Christianity and Judaism know the Golden Rule as, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In Islam it is stated, "Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." Confucianism puts it like this, "Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Hinduism teaches, "One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire."
As I watched the Anonymous People documentary last week I thought about our wonderful community filled with so many caring people. There is no need to be ashamed to be a person in recovery. There is no need to look askance at a person in recovery.
There is no need, my friends, simply because all of us are in the process of recovery. We are all recovering from any number of things. We know what it is to have our heart broken. Thanks be to God, our faith calls us to reach out and touch a spirit in despair. Reach out and let the smile of God touch through you.
- Bernstine is the executive director of the United Churches of Lycoming County.