The road to happiness, in the steps of Jesus, lies in the gift of ourselves, day by day. Through the lives we live, in great simplicity, we can express God’s love.
The word “simplicity” evokes a question concerning my existence: how can an omnipotent God be as simple as a human being? The exploration of this question leads me to my home, Mymensingh, where I have seen what life is like when it is simple. Here we can be easily satisfied with a milkless cup of tea and two slices of bread. We do not mind when, during lunch, our friend sitting next to us is a shirtless boy gazing at our face. With the spirit of simplicity, I can be grateful to our Father as I share a plate of rice and smashed potatoes and discover how human beings and birds from the trees share food together.
As necessary as material aid is in emergency situations, that is not enough. The important thing is to restore justice to the destitute. Christians in Latin America remind us that the fight against poverty is a struggle for justice.
When an emergency occurs, normally we help financially and with manpower. We content ourselves with the material aspect and do not go beyond it; our action remains one of using our hands to fill people’s pockets. We stay on the level of immediate aid, of “welfare”.
We do not understand or do not want to understand that material assistance to people who suffer from these situations is not more important than listening and helping them to see that, beginning in the situation in which they find themselves, they can discover their assets and make the best use of their gifts. Having compassion on someone means sharing and experiencing their joys and sorrows as our own.
We must learn to overcome fear. We are all familiar with that reflex of self-protection which consists in wanting to keep ourselves safe even at the expense of the welfare of others. And it seems to be becoming more pronounced in our day, as feelings of insecurity grow. What can prevent us from giving in to fear? Is it not by reaching out to others, even to those who seem to be a threat?
Jessica (New Zealand)
After three months of living and working here in the Taizé Community amongst people from many nationalities and backgrounds, I have experienced the fear of the “difference” of others, but also the beauty of meeting new people. Often my fear is due to the “unknown”, of misunderstanding why people act in a certain way and through trying to classify a situation based on what I already know.
It is easy for me not to reach out and meet new people due to my fear of being hurt or rejected. However, while I may see this as a safer and easier option, it is also a lonely one! Reaching out to others, trying to understand them, work with them and live with them, requires courage, perseverance and effort. It requires me to change my thinking from "this is how I have always done it, so it must be right", to accepting that there are many ways of achieving the same goal. Even if the means of achieving this goal is slower and harder if working with others, this is part of community life and provides me with an opportunity of meeting and connecting with people around me.
Immigration is another sign of our times. It is sometimes perceived as a danger, but it is a reality here to stay which is already shaping the future.
Chai-Hoon (South Korea)
Since we are put into schools as children, our parents teach us how to have a good social life and fair relations with others, but at the same time they tell us not to hang around with the “bad kids.” Parents do not always teach us to get along with persons from other religions or different ethnic backgrounds, or even immigrants. We try to avoid those who we think are dangerous and different, even if these thoughts are from rumors and our imagination. Discrimination is not, however, what Jesus taught us. We need the courage to stand up and to welcome new guests into our life.
A further sign of our times is the growing poverty within rich countries, where often abandonment and isolation are the main causes of economic uncertainty.
Rebekah (United States)
There are many opportunities for service projects in my country. One particular service I participate in is at a place called St Vincent de Paul. I help people who are in need of items for their household or in need of clothes for themselves or for their children. You also get to hear people’s stories, where they got to the point in their life that they are currently in and the life lessons they had learned. Working with these people is very enriching and it’s a wonderful experience that I have been blessed to partake in.