Mormon Discussion

Friday, August 26, 2005

How Would I Want To Be Loved?

Ok, ok...I'll admit it. I'm a registered Democrat.

I know! The gasping! The horror! A Mormon Democrat (who's registered, no less) is as rare as a solar eclipse (and just as burning to your retinas, so beware!).

While most of the time, Mormons are Republican because of the more conservative stance that party takes and shuns the more liberal views about abortion, gay rights, etc. that the Democratic party takes, I still am Democratic.

For me, it all boils down to social policy and equality. Clearly, social programs are the hallmark of the Democratic party. And that's where I plant my political and religious feet. In the idea of social equality. In the idea of loving my neighbor. In the idea of service to others and sacrifice on my part.

Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded of the importance of loving one another. We are reminded over and over again that to love thy neighbor as thyself is the second greatest commanment. This is stressed throughout much of the scriptures that deal with the period in which Jesus was on the earth. Jesus talked constantly about loving others.

How is love defined? What constitutes this love that is so frequently mentioned?

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:7-12

So love is of God and when we apply this love outwards, God dwells within us, which is a pretyt amazing thought. We all know and believe that God's love is infinite, forgiving, and patient. It can change hearts of wo/men. It can move mountains and heal people. It's a powerful force. And we are told that we are to cultivate this love within ourselves and then pass that same love to others.

What does it mean to love someone as myself? What do I value? What do I want? How are the ways that I love myself? How would I want someone to love me? These aren't necessarily questions we consider regularly. We act in ways that bring us pleasure, that make us better, than carve us slowly...we don't always think consciously about the things that we do that show ourselves our personal love for the inner person. Nor do we always pay attention to how we love others--when we love someone, the act of loving them becomes almost natural and subconscious. We do things because we love them and it seems to be the obvious thing to do. We would find a way to do most anything to alleviate pain or suffering of a loved one, to bring joy to a loved one, to serve, to encourage, to teach...we have no qualms about helping and serving those we love.

And as members, we are fairly good about serving those within our communites. More often that not, a group of people I don't know well show up from church to help me move from house to house. Many people brought over dinner for my mom when she was sick. We treat our members very well. We know them and even if we don't like them, we still show them love to a certain extent.

However, the love that we show is more often than not limited to those we see. We are cordial to those we don't know, we are good representatives of Christ. But do we love them as ourselves? Do we love them as we love our close friends and family? Would I do whatever I could to ease the pain and suffering of a stranger? How about millions of strangers? Would I give of myself in a variety of different ways to ensure others joy, health, well-being, and pleasure? Or will I only be nice to them as we pass on the street?

The world is an ugly place today. I'm not talking about the spiritual decline in the world, because that much is obvious. I'm talking about the very basic things that we would all be horrified to have taken from us. Yet, it happens every day to all our neighbors.

Within America, we suffer from below-living-standard wages, racial prejudices, poor educational systems, discrimination, poverty, sickness...we are mired in social problems. It seems so overwhelming at times, and so removed from where we are. Yet, behind all these social problems that are faceless a majority of the time, there are people. There are our neighbors. The same ones we are beseeched to love as ourselves.

How would I want someone to love me if I were a battered woman seeking shelter? How would I want someone to love me if I were poor? How would I want someone to love me if I were an immigrant to a country and didn't speak the language? How would I want someone to love me if I were sick and without health insurance? How would I want someone to love me? How do I show that love to others?

We don't do enough. And yet, the things we can do are so small, so insignificant to our own lives, but yet can make such an impact on others! For example, when I was 19, I worked at Wal-Mart. I was frequently encouraged not to take my breaks, since the pharmacy was too busy to allow that. I was frequently asked to work off the clock. Since I worked in the pharmacy, I was privy to the information regarding the health insurance policy of Wal-Mart workers: in sum, no transplants were covered other than liver, no pre-existing health conditions were treated or medications provided (this means if you started at Wal-Mart and had been diagnosed with diabetes prior to beginning employment at Wal-Mart, you may not be covered for your tests/visits/medications/etc.), women were afforded one yearly pelvic examination and if anything was found wrong or troubling in that visit, the subsequent visits to fix the problem were not covered, most medications weren't covered, including birth control (however, Viagra was...??) and some basic heart medications. This was a very poor health insurance policy. Co-pays on prescriptions cost $20 for generic and $30 for name brand. I'm on 5 medications right now--that would be $100-150 a month out of my pocket if I had Wal-Mart insurance. Raises were 1-2% of $7--the average wage. Workers were encouraged to underreport accidents with bribes of food and parties for "accident free" days. It was not a good place for people to work. But, they had to, since it is often the biggest employer whereever it is located.

My choice, after I left, was to never shop at Wal-Mart again. Ever. I will go somewhere else and pay more for the very same products that I can get cheaper at Wal-Mart because, in my opinion, every dollar I spend at Wal-Mart is a quiet and tacit acceptance of terrible working conditions for people. How would I want someone to love me if I worked at Wal-Mart? I would want them to fight for me for better working conditions and better wages. So, I show my love to my neighbors, even if it's indirectly, by spending my money elsewhere. It may not seem like much. It really isn't, in fact. But if everyone loved their Wal-Mart neighbors like they loved themselves and stopped shopping there, it would make a difference.

My point isn't to convince everyone to stop shopping at Wal-Mart (although that would be great!). My point is that to love thy neighbor as thyself doesn't always have to be a huge thing. It can be small. It can be powerful.

Loving thy neighbor as thyself comes in many forms. Boycotts are one form. They work (see the Montgomery bus boycott if you need proof). Another is service. Service is the hallmark of our church member interactions. We serve by welcoming members, going on missions, etc. But do we service those outside our wards? Outside our church realm? Do we limit who are neighbors are to those we know? Those we share something in common with? Or do we truly serve everyone, regardless of who they are, what they do, and if we agree with their choices?

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2:17

We must make an effort to serve others more diligently. And not those that that we deem to be deserving of service. In the parable of the good samaritan, the samaritan did not look at the wounded man and think, "Well, he really did this to himself since he made poor choices in life. He was a criminal for awhile, he grew up in a bad part of town, he'll probably end up here again or living off the system...I'll jsut keep walking." Too often, we make judgment calls about who is deserving of our love and our service and our help. Often, we make these judgments and we do not understand the perspective of those we are ruling on.

For example, prisoners are considered a waste to most of society. They are criminals, right? Dredges on society. Crust of bread, drop of water, let them rot. Rather than make a judgment call on them, perhaps we should ask ourselves: If I were a prisoner, how would I want someone to treat me?

Yes, prison is a place for punishment. But, it is also a place for rehabilitation. So, we take Johnny, a poor black kid from the streets who got busted for drugs at 19. He's in jail for 2 1/2 years for his crime. In this 2 1/2 years, what should be done with Johnny? Should he be allowed to attend college classes within the prison system? Should he be allowed to get his GED? Should he be allowed to learn a trade? Should we give Johnny something that at 21 years old, when he gets out of jail, he will be able to do something? Or should we lock him up 23 out of 24 hours?

How would you want to be treated if you were Johnny? How would you want to be loved?

Our social policies in this country are built with the intention of servicing and loving our neighbors. Welfare is to service and love mothers, fathers, and children who cannot survive on their own. We each have our own welfare system, which we both run and live on, in our own lives. It's called friends and family. When my car was totalled in an accident, I received personal welfare from a friend's family who loaned me a car while I was dealing with things. When my friend needed $1000 to pay her bills, I signed my student loan refund check over to her and she was a recipient of my welfare.

Meals on Wheels is service and love to eldery folks. Free health clinics are love and service to the indigent and ill in this country. Affordable housing and livable wages are service and love to everyone.

Too often, we think about how our sacrifices will hurt us. Specifically, the main complaint I hear against social policy is that so many taxes are taken out of the weekly paychecks and spent on social programs. We don't think about the life-saving medicine that the hospital pharmacy is now able to give out for free to low-income/insurance-less patients. We don't think about the food stamps that feed a child. We don't think about the people that get to stay in their homes because they make a decent wage at their work. We choose to ignore the good our sacrifices bring into the world. We choose to blind ourselves and see only our lack, the absence of our goods and time. We lack money from taxes. We complain. We don't consider that if we were living off of the gov't's assistance, how would we want to be loved? To be cared for? Would we want everyone to remind us how we are a drain on society, a waste, lazy, unmotivated, and abusing the system even if our claims are legitimate? Or would we want people who smiled at us and felt happy that their sacrifice would make our lives easier? That one more person was protected, sheltered and loved? How would we want to be loved?

We think about how our sacrifices hurt us. We think about the loss of time to go volunteer or lobby for legislature. We think about how we have a million other things to do. We think about how our vote and our voice doesn't make a difference so why bother with it at all. We think about those who deserve our help. We think about all the things we do do in this life and rationalize to ourselves that it is enough. We give service in church and possibly in our community, so we do enough. We think about how we will look, if we will look silly, or weird, or insane for fighting for a cause we feel strongly about. We think about how much money we lose when we donate to charities or buy food to give away to the food shelves. We think about our own families and our own friends and our obligations to them. We think that we don't know anyone who is affected by unfair or harmful legislations, so it is not of our concern.

We do not ask ourselves how we would want to be loved. We do not think about how our one hour of time donated, our one voice lobbying for change, our one banner, our one button, our one website, our one bumper sticker can change the lives of many...and sometimes, the life of only one. We don't think about how we would want someone to fight for us if we couldn't fight for ourselves. We don't consider how we would feel if judgment was passed on us and therefore service and love withheld. We don't remember that there is never enough service until we are serving with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. We don't recall that Jesus wasn't content to say that He had done enough service for that day and He wanted to go do something else. We don't think about the pure love of Christ emanating from us when we sacrifice and show love and charity.

Of course, not everyone needs to be a Democrat to fulfil this, nor do they need to believe that prisoners deserve caviar and crumpets. Rather, everyone needs to look at things from a different angle. To make an effort to cast aside judgments formed in their minds before their heart has had time to see the person/people. To realize that there is a constant need to love everyone, even those we don't see, don't like, and don't deem worthy of our love and service.

Everyone needs to ask themselves how they would want to be loved. How would I want to be loved?

There are a million ways to serve others. We don't do it enough. We need to lobby for better programs or reforming current ones to make sure that love and service really are given to our fellow wo/men. We need to avoid purchasing products from and affiliating with companies and people and things that use their lack of love and service to profit. We need to look constantly, search and seek in perpetuity, ways in which our service and love can be rendered. Not just to church members, not just to those we those we don't know. To those we will never know. To those we will never see or even be aware of the help we've provided.

Let us not look back at our lives in the next world and see all our missed opportunities. Let us not look back and see our prejudices and biases preventing us from service and love. Let us not remember in the next life all the times we didn't serve because of the sacrifice it entailed. Let us look at our life with happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Let us greet the people who were benefitted by our actions in the next life. Let us look around and see that we woke up and did something more than dreamed of our mansion above. Let us truly be our brother's keeper in all things and show our love to those who don't even know it.

"Savior, may I learn to love thee
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another
Finding strength beyond my own
Savior, may I learn to love thee
Lord, I would follow thee.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see
Who am I to jusge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother's keeper
I would learn the healer's art
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart
I would be my bother's keeper
Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For they servant I would be
Savior, may I love my brother
Lord, I would follow thee."


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