“Who” Did You Hear?

I once heard Bible study leader extraordinaire, Beth Moore, explain that wealth as judged on a planet-wide scale is determined by this… do you own books and can you read them. That puts our 99% here in the US significantly above the rest of the world in wealth. How many of us own books that we fished out of a Cheerios box? While my own “reading for pleasure” has diminished greatly in recent years, I do spend a fair amount of time reading with the kiddos. There’s nothing quite like snuggling up on the sofa in the evening with a few books and a couple of kiddos (except for those times when I can barely keep my eyes open to read the next word)!
One of our favorite authors is, of course, Dr. Seuss. Can I get an “Amen!”? And one of our favorites of his creations is “Horton Hears a Who.” This is a charming tale of an elephant named Horton who discovers a whole city full of miniscule Who people living on a dust speck. Billed as a lunatic for talking to a dust speck, Horton maintains that he will protect the Who-ville city, and despite the best efforts of the other jungle animals, he does save the dust speck from imminent disaster. Repeatedly, Horton exclaims, “After all, a person’s a person no matter how small!” This idea is reinforced toward the end of the story when the kangaroo and her joey and the Wickersham brothers, uncles, and cousins are about to boil the dust speck in Beezle-Nut oil. Horton implores the mayor of the Who city to make as much noise as possible, to get the whole city shouting and noise-making to impress upon the nay-sayers that there are in fact life forms on the dust speck. Seemingly everyone in the city is yelling and making noise but Horton remains the only jungle being who can hear them. In desperation, the mayor races through the city to find one more voice. The voice he finds is that of a small boy, “A very small, very small shirker named Jo-Jo” who was standing around “bouncing a Yo-Yo!” The “Yopp” of this very small person is just what was needed to make enough noise for the less-than-superior ears of the kangaroo and company to hear the residents of Who-ville. “After all, a person’s a person no matter how small.”
Interestingly, I recently saw a Facebook post circulating alternative titles to Dr. Seuss books, presumably the hidden political message of each of the sage writer’s most famous books. Horton was re-titled as “The Inherent Ethical Issues of Isolationism.” Say what? This must be referencing the kangaroo and her legions of unbelievers, those who refuse to believe in the existence of this other world, these other beings. “If I can’t see them or hear them, they don’t exist,” seems to be the kangaroo’s line of thinking. I suppose one could argue that the kangaroo is acting out of concern for Horton’s well-being. Certainly, it is unusual to start talking to a dust speck, to start hearing voices, and to insist on the existence of something invisible. Horton’s sanity does seem to be in question. Destroying the dust speck will no doubt cure him of his instability. However, the creator of this alternative title is hinting at a much more insidious reason for the kangaroo’s elephant /witch hunt. The kangaroo’s failure to respect other life, to even recognize it as legitimate, is the sinister isolationism that leads to a narrow vision and a frantic need to root out those who might challenge that narrow vision.
In my last blog, I wrote about the definition of compassion as being “hurting so much for another that you will do anything to help them.” Horton certainly feels this kind of compassion. He tracks tirelessly the “black-bottomed eagle named Vlad Vlad-i-koff” day and night and, with amazing endurance and persistence, plucks 3 million flowers to find his friends on the dust speck (just don’t let the Lorax know about his complete destruction of an environmental habitat!). He withstands the threats of the kangaroo and is even roped and caged for his belief in the sanctity of life, for his compassion for the inhabitants of Who-ville. It doesn’t matter to Horton that to his eyes they are invisible, that they are tiny, different, a world away from his experience. Nope. “A person’s a person no matter how small.” And even the smallest, most invisible are worthy of compassion.
Certainly, for those of us at Compassion Tea, this rings true. There are so many “invisible” in Africa. From Waddington, the boy with the broken bone that hadn’t been set at all, to Yohanna, the severely malnourished 3 year old, from Patrick, the abandoned little boy who suffered intense teasing at the hands of his peers, to Anderson, the 17 year old with severe elephantitis whose condition could have been prevented, from Sister Marta, the Polish nun who operates the Chalabessa Mission Hospital many days without water or electricity, to Dawn Faith Leppan whose kitchen feeds over 1500 people a day staving off starvation for many families, I’ve been learning the stories of people reached through the work of the CareNow Foundation, people otherwise far from my radar screen. Their stories have touched my heart. Like Horton, I wish for others to hear these voices. I would love for these faces to no longer be invisible.
Yesterday, I was watching a video of a flash mob dancing in Tbilisi, Georgia (http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=F21MMJNU if you are curious), and was glancing through the comments at the bottom. One lady quoted, “As my pastor Isaac Hunter says, you have never locked eyes with someone who does not matter to Jesus.” Yes, that means you! First of all, you matter to Jesus. You are deeply and passionately loved by Him. Secondly, there isn’t anyone walking this planet who isn’t deeply and passionately loved by Him. No one. Not the invisible, not the miniscule, not those who are off our radar screen, not the “unbecoming” or “unworthy,” certainly not the “unwanted” or the “beyond hope,” not even the isolationists. There is no one who isn’t loved by Jesus. Doesn’t that make it all the more imperative that we love on them too? Doesn’t that make it all the more imperative that we have compassion for “the least of these”?
So, I raise a challenge to us all. How will you show compassion to the “least of these,” the invisible in your world? How will you show compassion to the man who just pushed ahead of you in the line at Subway? How will you show compassion to the “jerk” who tailgated you your entire commute? How will you show compassion to the student who stole your stapler again or to the mom who never sees her kids pushing yours? How will you show compassion to the bully on the playground or in the boardroom? Your voice, even if it feels as small as little Jo-Jo’s with his Yo-Yo, may be the very Yopp that is needed to break through and melt the ice of someone else’s heart. And that icy-hearted person needs your compassion, too.
“After all, a person’s a person… no matter how small.”

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