Friday, April 26, 2013

Life at the Intersection blog post for April 26 - Michael Cobbler column



Greetings to you this hopeful spring season! Life at the intersection of oppressions requires the addressing of “perceived competing concerns,” the building of fruitful and powerful alliances, and the crafting of what I call “blended blessings” for the well-being of humankind and the honoring of God. In my reflections in this period between Earth Day (April 22) and the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT - May 17), a favorite folktale of mine from Trinidad came to mind. Richard Dorson tells this story in Folktales Told around the World, and David Augsburger tells it in abridged form in Conflict Mediation across Cultures. It is called “Wisdom of the Mediator.”

Once upon a time there was a poor devout man with an old, blind mother and a bitter, barren wife. His life was miserable, so each morning he rose early and went to the temple to pray for the blessing of God to relieve his family’s suffering.

After twelve years of prayer, he heard a voice—the voice of God. “What one thing do you desire?” “I don’t know,” he said. “I really didn’t expect you to ask. Do you mind if I go home and ask my mother and my wife?”

After receiving permission, he ran home, and first met his mother. “Son, if you will ask God to restore my eyes so that I may see again, you will never be indebted to me for anything.”

Then the man went to his wife and told her of God’s promise. “Forget your mother; she is old; she will soon close her eyes for the last time. Ask for a son who may care for us, and perhaps bring us wealth.”

The mother was listening, and she came with her cane and began to beat the wife. “No, it must be my eyesight.” The wife fought back, pulling her hair, and a terrible fight ensued.

The poor man ran from the house to a wise adviser, an old man who had mediated many conflicts, and he told him his dilemma. “My mother wants eyesight, my wife wants a son, and I, I wish for a bit of money so we can eat every day. What shall I ask? Whose needs come first?”

The adviser thought for a moment, then he answered: “Ah, my friend, you must not choose for any one of your family alone, but for the good of all. Although you may ask only one thing of God, ask wisely. Tomorrow morning you shall say, ‘O Lord, I ask nothing for myself; my wife seeks nothing for herself; but my mother is blind, and her desire is, before she dies, to see her grandson eating milk and rice from a golden bowl.’”


In our addressing perceived competing concerns with grace, clarity, and courage, and in our engaging in life-affirming and powerful alliances, may we, too, create blended blessings that bring joy and justice to people, and honor to God.

Next week, I will give a personal testimony and a tribute to my mother, who showed me how to love humankind. See you at the intersection!

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