Judging from Appearances

After the war, during the 1950s and 1960s the UK needed workers to rebuild Britain.  Irish workers came. But, as Paul McNamee, editor of the Big Issue  writes, “there was antipathy because they were the outsider, the other, easily cliched as boorish, threatening, rough men who would drink and fight and upset the social order.”

When our world is threatened, it’s easy to resort to stereotypes and cliché.  We pass judgement on the “ne’er do well” scrounging off the state.  We dismiss living in a tent in Cale Green Park as “a lifestyle choice”.  We ask, “Why can’t that Big Issue seller get a proper job?”  All the time judging from external appearances.  A conversation might give us a different perspective.

Rather than thinking “What’s wrong with you?”,  it might be more enlightening to ask, “What happened to you?”.  Just asking that question creates connection, empathy and understanding.  In turn that might lead to compassion – empathy in action.

So many of the Jesus stories are examples of responding compassionately to the outsider.  He was blamed for consorting with sinners and tax collectors.  His most well-known parable has an outsider – the Samaritan- as the “hero”.  His disciples were chosen not from the elite, but from down to earth working men.  Not a bad example to follow.

Chris Dawson

The Jews weren’t keen on the Samaritans in Jesus’ day.

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