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Center for Action and Contemplation

Solidarity: Weekly Summary and Practice of Finding Our Teachers

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Saturday, May 30, 2020
Summary, Sunday, May 24 — Friday, May 29, 2020

When the Bible is read through the eyes of solidarity—what we call the “preferential option for the poor” or the “bias from the margins”—it will always be liberating, transformative, and empowering in a completely different way. (Sunday)

If one of the primary markers of a Christian life is solidarity as modeled by Jesus, I am afraid that most of us still have a long way to go. (Monday)

Our cultural worship of individualism and “bootstrap” mentality deprives us of the capacity to empathize with people in need and recognize systemic oppression. (Tuesday)

The work of solidarity is to join and accept others as fully human—in our struggles and gifts alike. (Wednesday)

We are one, and through solidarity we more clearly identify and name the systems that separate us. We find in ourselves and in the other the true “image of God” in which we are created and connected. (Thursday)

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’s parables and stories paint a picture of a reign in which the poor and marginalized are lifted up and their needs are met, rather than being despised or ignored by those in control. —The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis (Friday)


Practice: Finding Our Teachers

Authentic solidarity requires a series of conversions. It requires our voluntary displacement from our position(s) of privilege—whether that be class, race, gender, physical ability, nationality, or religion—toward someone not like us in a real and tangible way. We may need to develop an appreciation for traits that our culture might not deem “acceptable” or even valuable. Only through relationships can we know what kind of help or advocacy is truly desired. Solidarity is not about “I’m helping you,” but a commitment to walking and learning together.  And of course, learning together requires us to be in dialogue, with the understanding that I have much to learn. The following practice from psychologist Roger Walsh’s book Essential Spirituality is one way to develop this skill.

If we choose to, we can see everyone as our teacher. Those people who have admirable qualities can inspire us; those with destructive qualities can remind us of our shortcomings and motivate us to change. Confucius was very clear about this:

“When walking in the company of two other men I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself.”

When we meet kind people, we can develop feelings of gratitude and use those people as role models to inspire our own kindness and generosity. We can also learn from unkind people. Seeing how sensitive we are to criticism and hostility, we can remember how sensitive others are and resolve to treat them gently. We can also practice forgiveness and find how much better this feels than smoldering with resentment for days.

To begin this exercise, select an initial time period such as a morning or a day. During that time, try to see each person you meet as a teacher bringing you an important lesson. Your challenge is to recognize what that lesson is, then to learn as much as you can from this person. At the end of the day, look back and review your interaction with each person, the lessons each one brought, and what you learned.

As exercises like these are repeated, the eye of the soul gradually opens and we become increasingly aware of the sacred within us and around us. Every person becomes a teacher and a reminder of our spiritual nature, while every experience becomes a learning opportunity . . . and we see the world as a sacred schoolhouse designed to heal and awaken us, and to teach us how to heal and awaken others. What greater gift could the world offer?

Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: 1999), 203–204.

For Further Study:
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos, 30th anniv. ed. (Continuum: 2005, ©1970, 1993)

Barbara Holmes, “Contemplating Anger,” “Anger,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2018)

Interview with Richard Rohr, “From Service to Solidarity,” Living School Alumni Quarterly (Winter 2020)

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)

Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil?: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CAC Publishing: 2019)

Richard Rohr, “Introduction,” “Anger,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2018)

Layla F. Saad, Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, (Sourcebooks: 2020)

William J. Barber, with Liz Theoharis and Rick Lowery, Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing, (Beacon: 2018)

Image Credit: Paulo Freire (detail), Centro de Formação, Tecnologia e Pesquisa Educacional (CEFORTEPE), SME-Campinas, Campinas, Brazil.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Conversion to [solidarity with] the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new existence; they can no longer remain as they were. —Paulo Freire
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