"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2 NIV
When I was a child, my mother would proudly tell people, "Lillian is like a little cat. Whichever way you throw her, she always lands on her feet."
She meant it as a compliment. We had chaotic lives, moving from one country to another, my father in and out of war zones. And that was just what was visible from the outside. Not all our family's war zones were in another country.
What my mother meant was that I could take it. I may have been little but I was tough, agile, canny and cunning, like a stray cat that always lands on its feet.
Later as an adult, I began to question the metaphor. What kind of person throws a cat? And furthermore, what kind of person stands by to watch it happen?
Picture a poor cat flailing about in the air - thrown against its will, furry limbs thrashing about in the sky, scrambling in the nothingness for a foothold that does not exist. Finally, upon descent, all four paws find their way down through gravity at just the right moment to have the padding scraped off them by the unforgiving concrete below. What kind of person, after watching all that, responds by congratulating the cat on its graceful landing?
And then has the nerve to come up and pet it?
How about this for an alternative? Stop throwing cats.
And if you see one about to get thrown, step in and stop it.
And if you hear one crying out for help, don't listen in dispassionately like you're a scientist performing an experiment on resilience, waiting to see how things turn out. Step up and stop the experiment.
By the time you are congratulating a cat for landing on its feet, you have missed the chance to do something real. You can't go back and change that.
Just be on the lookout for the next cat flailing in the air. And next time, try to help.
Grant us the compassion to share one another's burdens in the hard times, when we actually need it. Amen.
Lillian Daniel's new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.