Treating “others” as “our owns”

By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

alexandre-chambon-webShe is a gifted computer programmer; knowled-geable, skilled and an excellent manager.

But she is a minority in her profession. In her office, men outnumber women 10 to 1.

She is a woman in a man’s world and is advised to hide her feminine side – to not talk about her love of sewing or cooking – lest she alienate her male colleagues or somehow undermine her authority. She hits a ceiling. Promotions stop happening for her. Eventually they can find no place for someone as skilled as she is and she is let go.

He receives a text. Plans have changed. She needs to go to the States to pick up her sister’s cat and a few other things. It would seem that after 10 years of working as a nurse in the Detroit area, her work visa has been denied and she was immediately deported back to Canada.

She applied for a job at a local thrift shop. The interview went well. They were impressed by her people skills and her energy. They invite her to work for a day to see how things go. When she signs the documents with her legal name the manager realises she was born a male. Suddenly things go cold. She is not surprised when she is told at the end of the shift that she will not be needed after all.

“I have nothing against helping others, but shouldn’t we take care of our own first?” Everyone has a definition of who they consider to be ‘our own’. The specifics may divide by gender, race, ability, nationality, colour, socio-economic status and more. Those who fit within that definition are given preferential treatment while the rest are set aside, considered ‘others’ or worse. In some cases, those beyond our special circles can be painted as enemies whose mere presence is thought to undermine our circumstances and threaten our well-being.

The consequences of these kinds of attitudes show up in subtle and not so subtle ways. All too often those who are on the receiving edge of this kind of exclusion feel it.

Take a certain woman who chooses to go to the public well in the heat of the day (see John 4:5-42). She has a questionable background which could easily have contributed to her feelings of being excluded and perhaps even ridiculed. It may be that she intentionally chose to go to the well at this time to avoid having to hear the comments and feel the scorn.

When she arrives, she encounters a man, a Jew no less. Within her cultural context she is triply disadvantaged: by gender, race and the social judgement related to her situation. It is clear he knows this too. In fact, he knows all about her circumstances and the ways in which these do not fit with cultural expectations. Despite all of this, he not only asks for water from her but offers her life-giving water. She is transformed by this encounter and becomes a voice proclaiming the Good News.

As Christians we are called to love as Jesus loved. Two thousand years later, there continues to be a lesson for us in this story.

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is Co-Chair, Social Justice Huron.

(Featured photo: Alexandre Chambon, Unsplash)