One of the great challenges to our humanity is acknowledging and overcoming our natural tendency to think less of and discriminate against people who are different than us racially, ethnically, religiously or ideologically.
Despite persistent rhetoric about prizing diversity, political debates often reflect disdain and contempt for those we disagree with and prejudices of all sorts are more readily stated. Indeed, there are disturbing signs that anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic attitudes are rising throughout the world.
A poem written in the 1970s by James Patrick Kinney called “The Cold Within” reminds us what’s at stake.
Six humans trapped by happenstance,
In black and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back.
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.
The next man looking ‘cross the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give,
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes;
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought,
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned,
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge,
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood,
Was a chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group,
Did naught, except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave,
Was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.