April 4 was the 43rd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Bobby Kennedy died from gunshot wounds on June 6, 1968. John Hinckley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan thirty years ago on March 30. During the village’s recent election, many of the candidates were victims of character assassination in one way or another. Two days from now Christians will remember the death of Jesus.
And here I thought that springtime was the season for the renewal of life and hope.
I want to offer a postulate for your consideration: If you try to do good, you will suffer, and the more profound the good is that you try to do the more you will suffer.
I hear people commenting regularly that President Obama seems to have more gray hair than he did two years ago. I imagine the same is true for John Boehner. I haven’t carefully examined Mayor Calderone’s hair lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I found some graying around his temples.
Most of us, I suppose, who get into politics, or become teachers, or go to seminary, or get jobs as social workers do so with an expectation that people will appreciate the work we do. I recently interviewed a young pastor who has been on the job for just five months. She confessed to having the fantasy that once people in the church got to know her they would love her.
Her bubble burst, of course, soon after she arrived. The honeymoon, as it were, ended quickly. I’ve heard many of those who recently campaigned for office – both winners and losers – express gratitude that the campaign is over, and say that it was nastier than they had anticipated and a lot more emotionally draining than they had expected.
When I tell people that I am the president of my condominium association board, almost universally they say that they feel sorry for me. I remember when Colin Powell publically debunked the theory he would run for president during a 1995 press conference. There were people who said that either party would have nominated him if he would have offered his services. He said “No,” explaining that the campaign would put too much stress on his family.
Now, when I say that no good deed goes unpunished, I’m not talking about charity. Two weeks ago I gave $50 to the Red Cross to help with the relief work in Japan. Not only did I get a nice thank-you letter but United Airlines gave me 250 frequent-flyer miles as a reward for contributing!
The good I’m talking about is an action that tries to bring about change in a fundamental way. Here’s an example. I have a friend who coughs regularly, because he is a smoker. If I offer him a lozenge when I hear him cough, he will smile and say, “Thank you.” That’s charity. But, if I push him to stop smoking, he becomes defensive and irritable and I get a lot of pushback. And, you can guess how he would respond if I were to say, “I’m only saying this for your own good.”
When a person attempts to make changes, even when the changes are clearly for the common good, someone is going to lose, and unless that someone is mature and can see the big picture, they will attack the person whom they perceive to be a threat. That’s what often happens when parents set boundaries for their teenagers.
I want to apply this to a young man named Matt Walsh. What odds would the bookmakers in Vegas give for an eighteen-year-old getting over 900 votes for commissioner? Clearly Matt has potential for leadership in this town.
And, we have the opportunity to mentor and nurture him in a way that will help him grow into that role. In particular, we have the responsibility to prepare him to handle all of the crap that inevitably will be thrown at him as he matures as a leader who facilitates change. How can we help him grow into a leader who is sensitive to people who are having trouble with change, who is able to hear their misplaced blame without retaliating in kind, and who has the inner resources to persevere in doing good?
It’s something to think about in the middle of Holy Week.
– Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.