A grossly obese woman in a “Mart cart” shouting, “No! Stop! Come here now!” Her children running helter-skelter, pausing only to rifle through a merchandise display. A wizened old man, his teeth falling out from the effects of methamphetamine. An elderly lady buying a gallon jug of wine. A young girl in jean shorts and skimpy blouse begging for cigarettes. I see all this as I stand at my cash register; and walking down the store aisles, I see shopping carts filled with beer while shabbily dressed babies scream at mothers old before their time. This is George Fox’s “darkness and death” right here, right now in my neighborhood Walmart store.
But I’m a Quaker, pulsating with the Inner Light! And yet, I too have my darkness. In my 20’s I drank heavily and did drugs. I stopped all that some 40 years ago; but even now I—never a smoker—chew nicotine gum to allay the boredom of cashiering. The habit gives me extra energy at work, but I know that even mild substance abuse is wrong. It does remind me that I share in the spiritual poverty I see all around me.
Luke tells us that, in the synagogue, Jesus claimed to have been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “…to proclaim good news to the poor….” What was that good news? It was the revelation of a Kingdom of God in which love is the law, forgiveness the rule, and joy the fruit.
I sometimes (I’m ashamed to admit) feel superior to the poor people around me at Walmart. To counteract that feeling, I say “That of God, That of God, That of God” as I pass some poor specimen of humanity. A Friend has advised me to turn that practice on its head. He tells me to look at That of God in myself, to feel God’s love in myself. Then, he says, that Inner Love may overflow and become a feeling of sympathy for those less fortunate than myself. And—in time—we may all become aware that we live in God’s Kingdom.
~ Richard Russell
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