Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In his essay “Religious Leaders As Seekers And Servants” Robert Greenleaf spells out that “A ‘good’ society is seen as one in which there is widespread faith as trust that encourages and sustains ordinary good people to become constructive influences in the world as it is: violent, striving, unjust, as well as beautiful, caring, and supportive." We encourage our children to become the servants of this society when “we encourage good health, protect the environment, and care for the needy, the aged, and the disabled”.
As I see it the key to this is the protecting the environment, for without a healthy environment, all the other tasks become pointless and it is our disregard for the environment that is what allows us to transfer this disregard to the needy, the aged, and the disabled. In other words, care for the earth needs to be primary for without the earth, we have nothing. The secondary needs for caring for our fellow human beings will naturally fall into place once we relearn caring for the earth.
So how do we relearn caring for the earth? The first step is to get outside and spend some time in nature. To be effective at leading others to care for the earth, leaders need to nurture their own ability to find compassion for the ecosystem that sustains us and our neighbors. Go outside, plant a garden, take a walk, listen to the birds sing, or open your windows at night and listen to the frogs.
One of the challenges I find in taking this step myself is that I too often experience the violence we reap on the earth. For example, earlier this evening I observed a young mother spraying herbicide on her lawn while her toddler played next to her, I breathed in the exhaust fumes from my neighbors riding lawn mower as I sat with my family outside trying eat our supper, and the engine noise from the airplanes flying over head made it difficult to hear the quiet songs of the birds.
But working through the violence, I also watched my neighbor turn off his lawn mower and talk with his new neighbor, I noticed how green the leaves on the trees had become as a result of the recent rain and warm temperatures and sunshine, and I felt the cooling air blow across my face as the sun set for the evening. It is experiencing that beauty and compassion that will guide us towards the good society we seek.