I routinely saw patients who were racist, sexist, demanding, and cruel. They were also afraid, exhausted, in pain, and helpless.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and soon my church in New York City will be serving turkey with all the trimmings to over 400 people. I play a major role in this volunteer effort and sometimes I feel quite virtuous. At last, I tell myself, I’m learning how to feel useful during a holiday that is emotionally fraught for many. But sometimes the annual meal looks less like a joyful act of holiday giving than a thinly disguised act of “slumming.” Those of us serving the meal will be almost uniformly white, after all, while those being served will be mostly black and Hispanic. After the meal is over, the “out-of-towners” will go home and eat healthier, more gourmet Thanksgiving meals.
I was looking through a high school yearbook recently, a dangerous thing to do when 40 years have passed. I got lost staring at the silly hairstyles, the photos of teachers who are long since gone, the friend in the senior play whose name is now etched on the Vietnam memorial. It was a time of turmoil and strife in the nation. Racial tensions, assassinations and war were tearing the country apart. But you would never know that from my yearbook’s carefree and hopeful class photos.
This portion of the narrative is a continuation and expansion of what has just preceded. The other ten disciples are jealous, are angry with James and John because they have pushed Jesus—successfully—to give them a preeminent share in his destiny. Jesus has not criticized or dismissed their insistent demand but has lovingly transformed it from a desire for glory into a willingness to suffer. Still, why should some of the disciples be granted privileges over the rest?