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The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts is minister emeritus of First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, AL.

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Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Weeping with One Eye

July 23, 2009

Weeping With One Eye

Sometimes we are smitten by a phrase that conjures up remarkable mental images. There are phrases that drip with emotion and meaning and which beg to be repeated, dissected and discussed. They come from strange places and strange people, and they stir up strange feelings. One such phrases for me was: "Weeping With One Eye".

The late Dr. Scott Peck of The Road Less Traveled fame (who said he did not remember where he heard it) tossed this phrase into a small circle of people, toyed with it philosophically for a few minutes and then left it with us. It has been like a cocklebur in my mind since that time.

My first impression was: "What a way to describe somebody who just half cares--somebody who is good enough not to ignore the pain of others, but not good enough or not strong enough to enter fully into that pain". There is no way to take away the suffering of others without entering into it. People who really care not only cry, they also get their hands dirty and they spend money.

Deep in the Old Testament there is a piece of writing called Lamentations. It is traditionally thought to have been written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. It is a funeral song written about the destruction of Jerusalem. In 587 BC, the Babylonian army destroyed the city of Jerusalem. They deported all the able-bodied people to Babylonia where they remained in exile for almost fifty years. Surveying the obvious tragedy of the situation, Jeremiah cries out: "Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by?" (Lam. 1:12) There are times in which the sorrow and tragedy in us or around us is so obvious that we become distressed when others do not see and feel it as we do. I do not know what touches you to turn your tears to anger. It may be senseless ethnic cleansing, the wars of religious hatred, starvation in a world of plenty, destructive ignorance, or the homeless people who sleep in the doorways of churches and businesses. There does come a time to act in the tradition of Jeremiah--to quit crying long enough to grab the world by the coattails and scream in the ears of the indifferent masses: "Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by?" If you care you cannot remain dry-eyed and silent.

In the slums of Calcutta, India, thousands live on the streets. If they own a ragged blanket to spread over the place where they sleep, they feel lucky. Early each morning trucks come by to pick up the bodies of those who die in the night. Babies are born on the sidewalk and left in cardboard boxes. In the midst of this abject poverty and unspeakable suffering a tiny little woman who, until her recent death, could be seen moving among the sick, homeless and hungry, giving help wherever and however she could. She was an Albanian nun lovingly called Mother Teresa. She walked among these homeless, hurting people. She bent low to touch them, whispering a word of comfort and encouragement to them. She lifted the dying in her arms to hold them as they died. She was not afraid of them. She wept and worked and walked and begged for them. She is a proper model for what to do when weeping, even with both eyes, is not enough. There is so much in this world to cry and care about!

It has been said and it is true: "People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care".

 


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