… [T]he great Godde, mighty and awesome,
who has no favorites, accepts no bribes;
who executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing her.
So you too must befriend the alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. Dt 10:12-22
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
Have you ever been an alien, a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land? I have, and I thought I was going to die, maybe because of a character flaw deep within me unnoticed until then. I felt I was losing my identity, no longer quite sure of who I was, as if the me I thought I knew had been steamed off. I understood, however, that I was different, without being interesting enough for people to ask where I was coming from. I was expected to adjust and conform to my new situation. Love it or leave it, I heard once.
We all go through such experiences: the first time we go to school, when we change city or country, when we enter a group where everyone knows one another well, when we join a club, when we start a new job or a new activity. Some people have no problem going into a new situation; others dread that moment of unknown. What will happen then? Harder still when one changes country, culture, social customs, even more so when one faces the novelty alone.
This is when simultaneously an old familiar self dies and a new to-be-discovered self is being born.
Some people never leave their hometown, their region, their country. This does not prevent old bits of self to die, and new ones to take their place.
Sometimes just being in contact with someone different helps losing an old, superannuated skin. My having worked alongside homeless women and men, for instance, helped me realize how similar we all are, whether with a roof or without a roof above our head. We each have the same need to be welcome, accepted, appreciated, understood, liked, hugged and even, why not, loved. We all need to connect, to be heard, to be asked what’s important in our life, whom and what we’re caring for. Often, it is good to feel a friendly hand resting on one’s shoulder, to be greeted when we come in, or hailed when we walk by.
The alien is another me, that fragment of Christ-consciousness buried deep into emotions, dreams, and experiences carried by someone else.
Then, of course, sometimes the Other is a part of me which scares me, turns me off, which I cannot accept, or hiding itself in my blind spot. Befriending the Other outside of and within me. What a great challenge! What an adventure! What a holy mission… holy because truly Godde is right there, staring at me with a grin on Her face, waiting to be discovered in those I meet and in myself.
Art: Sieger Köder, Kommunion