If you sense and believe that you can be an agent of positive change in our world, and you hold that it is possible for us to generate greater justice, greater harmony, and greater peace, then you are, in essence, a person of faith. Our faith traditions offer teachings, narratives and details that are often clouded in mysteries or obscured by semantics and these can sometimes generate division and separation. However, when we glimpse how interconnected all of creation really is, we can transcend division and fear and move towards Oneness. To love the other as you love yourself is a powerful commitment that faith demands from each of us and this tenet is found in almost all spiritual and wisdom traditions.
One way that love manifests is through wanting another person to have and experience the things that you need and cherish—like waking up in a secure place in a warm dry bed that is my own. My sense is that a real marker of a spiritual awakening is rising compassion. The word compassion literally means, “to suffer together.” Deep compassion sometimes hurts. Compassion towards the homeless in our community begins when we realize that the homeless are us. The homeless are not some strange tribe of people who congregate on Pandora Avenue or Topaz Park. The homeless are our siblings.
Homelessness is a painful image reflected back to all of us from the mirror of our collective soul. We can spin discourses on the origins of our homeless problem but in doing so we often place the blame on something outside ourselves and do not take ownership of the reality. We know from our faith traditions and from rational logic that it is the most vulnerable among us who should be in the center of our community—a place where they are protected, visible and accessible, a place where the most vulnerable can receive the care and support they need.
Marginalization as a default is emblematic of injustice. Turning to our police force to maintain order and protect us from our community’s weakest members suggests we are losing our faith as a collective, that we are buying into the growing manipulative narrative that feeds our fear, pounding into our consciousness a fear that there is lack, that we are limited, and that we need to shore up our own needs and compete with one another for basic survival. This fear-driven narrative of lack, competition and mistrust generates division and is antithetical to faith.
We have no magic wand to neatly solve this enormous issue. We know that insights and wise choices need to come both from the top down and the bottom up. The 1st century BCE sage Hillel taught, “If I am not for me who will be, if I am only for myself what am I, if not now, when?” We need to ensure that our actions are doable and sustainable. There is a difference between discomfort and irreparable damage. We must act because not acting or pushing this off onto others diminishes us as a compassionate community. We must act now. Let’s show each other that we really mean it when we say, “We are in this together.”
Prepared by Rabbi Harry and endorsed by members of Victoria’s faith based clergy.