In any community, to honor is to love
By Mary Regina Morrell
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil. 4:8
I have always found great wisdom in the Chinese proverb: “One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.”
It speaks so simply, and yet so profoundly, of the interconnectedness of the human family.
But when the trees planted are really cell-phone monopoles in very poor disguise, you can be certain there will be no shade, nor would anyone sit in it if there were.
In my community this battle began a year ago, when a large communications company went before our zoning board with an application to erect a monopole in our residential neighborhood. They were welcomed by a not-for-profit organization housed in our community which was seeking to gain revenue through land-use income.
The outcry from the community was loud and strong, citing health, safety and aesthetic concerns as reasons to prevent the monopole from going up. Fortunately for us, the zoning board denied the application and we were delighted with the outcome.
That was until last week when we discovered the company had gone to Superior Court where the decision had been overturned. The zoning board has since decided that an appeal would be too costly and so it seems we have lost the battle.
In the course of the fight, through the writing of many letters and nights spent in angry musings, I finally realized that while I was angry with all those who enabled this to happen, the real issue – the real sore spot -- for me had become the failure of one member of the community, the non-profit organization, to honor the rest of the community.
St. Paul would understand completely.
His letters to the early Christian communities were admonitions stressing the importance of the Spirit to community life and the appropriate response of individuals living a life of faith animated by that Spirit.
For Paul the Spirit was the unifying force of the community, expressed in a common purpose by individuals who honored each other by attention to the other’s needs, being especially mindful of doing what was best for the community’s weaker members.
Paul also made the point that what was permissible by culture or law was not always right. This is a wisdom that all of God’s children should fully embrace.
For any community, be it a neighborhood, a parish, a school, an office or a family, honoring the other must be a foundational premise for peace and prosperity to reign. Sometimes this requires that we drop the “it’s all about me,” attitude and concentrate more on how we can best serve others.
“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s,” wrote Richard Whately, an Oxford philosopher, social reformer and once Anglican Archbishop of Dublin.
Surely his thought was a reflection of his understanding of the second part of the Greatest Commandment as Jesus spoke it, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
St. Paul explained it again in his letter to the Roman community, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
In this day and age we have come to expect that profit driven entities will do just about anything they can to increase their revenues. It’s infuriating, but certainly the wound is not so deep as when inflicted by one of our own.
So, for me, it’s back to the battle, or maybe it’s more appropriate to say “on to the next battle” because, in addition to teaching the greatest commandment Jesus also taught us the value of faithful persistence.
Jesus may have lost the battle, if we look at his death through the eyes of his unbelieving contemporaries, but he certainly won the war.
Diocese of Metuchen
http://www.diometuchen.org NJ, US
Mary Regina Morrell - Associate Director, Office of Religious Education, 732 562-1990
community, honor, cell tower, monopole
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