(This is a continuing blog series from my attendance at the Boundless Compassion Retreat and Facilitator Training in June 2018. Some of the contents are adapted from Boundless Compassion – Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp, 2018, with permission from Joyce Rupp, author).
Who are the marginalized?
You all know the phrase – The “haves” and the “have nots.”
- The “haves” are at the center of our society: Their center is full and they have all they need to survive and thrive.
- The “have nots” are on the margins of our society: They are shamed, disgraced or do not have enough to survive and thrive.
What groups are most marginalized in our society?
These include individuals who suffer from economic destitution and social exclusion, those who do not fit in with expected social customs and privileged behavior, for example the guests served at the Des Moines Catholic Worker House. Most are jobless, without a place to live, and just trying to survive daily. They are of all races and nationalities, young and old, healthy and frail. Clearly, they are on the margins of our society as the “haves” define it.
How do we marginalize people?
Marginalization comes about when we succumb to our judgments, assumptions or stereotypes about people. As a result, we put people in boxes. Then we use labels to describe them: homeless, bum, illegals, lazy, them, not desirable, mentally deranged, disabled, or poor. They become “less than” and it is easy to dismiss their humanity as having little or no value. When we label someone negatively, we push them out of our circle; we reject, exploit, or devalue people by our actions.
What does it take for a privileged person to turn toward compassionate action?
We have not been taught how to relate compassionately to those who are “different” from what is considered to be the “normal way to look and act.” So, how do we move from indifference and ignorance to the ability to care unconditionally for another person?
We have to view our humanity up close and personal.
My personal example is cooking and serving meals at the Des Moines Catholic Worker House with a group of close friends once a month for the past 30 years. We serve food to those who have nothing. Some of the people have been coming for years and we know them by name. We enter their space and are mindful to honor their dignity as human beings. Also, most Sunday afternoons, my wife and I drop off donations from our spiritual community to the Worker House. We often talk with people simply to make a connection. These ongoing experiences have helped me to empathize, provide hospitality, and recognize the gap between my privileged life versus others. I’m stepping into a world which society marginalizes.
I leave you with several questions for your reflection:
- What are your earliest realizations that some people were being “left out”?
- Have you experienced a “door” being closed to you by an individual or group? If so, what was that like for you?
- How have you viewed humanity up close and personal of those that society has marginalized?
- Have you excluded marginalized individuals as customers or from your workforce?
My next blog will address Compassion for Creation.