The Beginning of Empathy

It has been a terrible week for all of us in the U.S., to varying degrees. We couldn’t catch our collective breath before we had another public tragedy to grieve, and another, and another. I lamented on Twitter that in addition to sick days, our jobs should give us “crushing sadness for the state of our society” days, because I honestly felt such despair and powerlessness that it was hard to get out of bed. And I realized that I say that as someone speaking from a place of privilege. I wasn’t directly impacted by the murders I saw on the news this week, except that I try to practice empathy. It’s messy and I certainly haven’t mastered it, but I keep trying. What I’ve seen lately is a whole lot of people who seemingly have lost the ability or willingness to imagine the world from someone else’s perspective. Empathy is one of the tools God has given us to help in the hard work of loving our neighbors as ourselves. But it isn’t enough on its own. Imagining what someone else thinks and feels is fine, but God also gave us the gift of story. And if we want anything to change, I think it begins with simply listening.  Continue reading “The Beginning of Empathy”

Thank You, Star Wars

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We came into the world in the same year, within weeks of each other. So many of my childhood memories are tied to you. Every Christmas, there were Star Wars action figures under the tree. My little brother and I played in a grove of trees we dubbed the Ewok Forest. And I didn’t give him piggyback rides, but Tauntaun rides. When my dad drove our minivan through a Kentucky snow storm at night, the flakes coming toward the windshield looked to me exactly like the stars whooshing by as Han Solo took the Millennium Falcon to light speed. I never outgrew you, as evidenced by the photo of me hugging Chewbacca (after waiting in a very long line) on my 34th birthday. But it wasn’t until this week, as I watched “The Force Awakens” with my boyfriend’s two sons for the first time, that I started to understand how much I learned from you, how much you shaped who I am. And I just wanted to say thanks. Continue reading “Thank You, Star Wars”

To My Good Friends, Whom I’ve Never Met

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It is rather a strange 21st-century phenomenon. There are people I have never met — and may never meet — in “real life” who know things about me that I haven’t shared even with members of my own family. It all started, for me, with a group on Twitter. I don’t even remember how we all found each other, but somehow a bunch of hospital chaplains from very different religious backgrounds and several different countries started a weekly chat at #SocMedChap, for Social Media Chaplains. We would take turns facilitating the discussion, choosing a topic and throwing out a few different questions for the group to tweet responses. It was eye-opening reading these different perspectives from fellow chaplains, even in 140-character bursts.  Continue reading “To My Good Friends, Whom I’ve Never Met”

Fat Shaming Week, Imago Dei, and Incarnation

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Social media have the power to connect people, to spread knowledge and information, to allow communication across cultural and other barriers.  I have seen such things happen during my time on Facebook and Twitter.  Unfortunately, I have also seen the dark side of social media, and another perfect example reared its ugly head this week.  Under the hashtag #FatShamingWeek, tweets like the one above (which is one of the less offensive, I’m sorry to say) attempt to make overweight women — because most of the tweets are aimed specifically at women — feel unattractive, ostensibly “for their own good.”  (I’m happy to report that there is now a counter-movement and many have posted tweets under the same hashtag expressing pride in their bodies and respect for others regardless of size.)  I don’t know who started the hashtag, or how they think this will give anyone motivation to lose weight (when in reality, fat shaming more often leads to gaining weight), or why they believe someone else’s body size is any of their damned business. Continue reading “Fat Shaming Week, Imago Dei, and Incarnation”