Many of us can look back through our lives and see a chain of fortunate circumstances, positive influences, good mentors, lucky breaks, and a supportive friends and family circle or church community that have led us to a reasonably happy life. Even when there have been great obstacles to overcome, our fortunate circumstances, positive influences, good mentors, lucky breaks, and a supportive circle or church community have tipped the scales in our favor. We have experienced a fabric of love that has caught and held us when challenges arise.
Others however, have not been so lucky. Poverty, violence, hatred, racism, sexism, unfair laws, war, inequality, and even unfortunate genes become obstacles that make it difficult for anyone to feel like the scales are tipping in their favor. Under these circumstances, people can easily become discouraged, disengaged, discontented, broken, spiteful, or worse, hate-filled, rage-filled, and seeking revenge. With a fabric of love, even when awful things happen, there is hope and possibility. People can rebound and rebuild. We retain our humanity when we strengthen that fabric of love. With love, we weave our differences into a miraculous tapestry that is more textured, nuanced, bountiful and strong. With love, we see ourselves in others and others in ourselves.
While trying to make sense of the mass killings plaguing America, I feel this fabric of love has developed a hole. I see an environment of hatred and rigid intolerance. I see vulnerable people, some of whom are victims themselves. Victims of violence, hatred, poverty, unfortunate circumstances, unfortunate genes, war or inequality. They have become discouraged, disengaged, discontented, broken, spiteful, hate-filled, rage-filled, and they seek revenge. They have not been held in our fabric of love. They have fallen through into a dark abyss.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
As director of Andrews House, I see this fabric strengthened every day, whether at the Legal Clinic, the Summer Lunch Program, or at our pantry box (which fills mostly anonymously). Kind and generous people are strengthening that fabric of love. These many acts, large and small, delivered with respect, strengthen those who feel lost, forgotten, and pushed aside. These acts happen throughout communities, in organizations, in churches, with individuals and businesses. It’s what makes a community strong.
We, you and I, are all responsible to maintain this fabric of love. Every day, each encounter we have, no matter what our occupation or who we encounter, is a chance to strengthen this fabric. In the communities we build, in the policies and laws we write, there is a chance at every level to strengthen the fabric. The Gospels teach us everything we need to know about love. Love is simple kindness. Love is trying to understand another human being. Love is respect. Love is a gentle smile. Love is generous. Love is stepping in, standing up, and sometimes taking a punch for somebody. Love is learning how to love. Love is taking action to develop a world where we can all thrive, where we all can be embraced in a fabric love.
Mel Corroto is not a pastor, but she works with many pastors and church communities in her role as director of Andrews House in Delaware.