Compassion vs. Action
Today's sermon was given by a woman from a homeless ministry in the dodgiest part of The City. She was passionate, she was eloquent. She was a gifted storyteller.
She was singularly uninspiring.
As she told us how she spent four days "learning to be homeless," living on the streets, I became increasingly upset. Although she told of real need, of desperation, of ingenuity, of hardship, and of grace, all I could think was "How dare you, you fucking tourist? Whose shelter bed were you sleeping in, whose free soup were you eating?"
She became filthy, stinky, hungry, and cold. She experienced pity and rejection from outright strangers due to her appearance. She learned how exhausting the life was, walking miles every day from shelter to soup kitchen to shelter. How little dignity was left. How sleeping in the daytime was safer.
But it was all about her, not the people she was with. And, as she could have gone home at any time, I am not interested in her experience. I am not interested in how she learned to be more compassionate.
She was at a fucking UU church. We worship at the altar of social action. The compassion thing, that was a given. We have overstock, we don't need any more.
I wanted to know the stories of the people she talked to, and learned from. I wanted to know what they need, what they want. I wanted to know what her ministry does to assist these people in tangible ways. I wanted to know what we should be doing to help.
She never once mentioned what we should or could do to help.
Seymour listened to my rant above, and assured me that her ministry probably does all the things I was railing on (and on) about.
So what. I now know what it felt like for her to be homeless. I still don't have any useful information. And I think she did her ministry a disservice today, however wonderful she and they might be.
To me, the sermon was an example of the worst kind of liberalism. Waving a bleeding heart around like a totem, without demonstrating any useful tools, maps, or directions. All talk, no action. What is the fucking point?
I am in the same place I was before she showed up, except now I'm pissed at her for squandering the opportunity to do some real good.
And, yes, I was grouchy before she showed up.