I write a lot about going from the middle of our culture to its edges, where our marginalized people find themselves. I encourage my readers to encounter those margins for themselves, to discover the richness and the wisdom that live there.
But when I’m unable, or unwilling, to go to the margins, there is still a personal way to approach marginalized people: I let the margins come to me.
Journalists, videographers, and legions of cellphone-wielding folks find themselves at trouble spots and disaster sites and war zones around the world. Via television, radio, online news, print media, social media they bring us images and descriptions of marginalized people wherever they are.
You can pay attention, not to the onslaught of adrenaline in the hype, but to the individuals, the real people who dwell in the margins.
Or wherever you are at the moment, notice someone there. While you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, or as you walk down the block where you live, pay attention to the people who are there, or who are hidden just inside the examining room or behind the drawn curtains of their darkened home.
Or for just a moment notice someone in the car next to you on the freeway, or the one sitting beside you in a theater. There are people everywhere who may be suffering and feeling judged and isolated. (The most difficult one of all to recognize as marginalized is the person you see in the mirror.)
Please open your eyes and your heart to see these real people.
But then what?
What can you do if you’re upset by what you notice in your ordinary day, or by the images that come through the media?
Composting my kitchen garbage has shown me one way to respond when the margins come to me.
Try this: notice every detail of whoever is before you, whatever their circumstances are. Take it all in without judging any of it as good or bad or beautiful or ugly. Assemble all of what you’ve noticed; then imagine pushing the whole collection down into the ground to be assimilated by the earth – Mother Earth, who is an expert in the field of composting and change.
Since mostly we are not wise enough to know the difference between what can be changed and what can’t, we can trust the earth to sort through everything. Everything.
Trust the earth to know what should be encouraged to grow and what should wither and rot to become something else altogether.
Trust that the Spirit within the earth can “compost” things like anger and fear and helplessness as easily as she composts orange rinds and grass clippings.
Trust that she knows how to make compassion and vulnerability and love flourish in the recycled muck along with asters and ferns and toadstools.
We don’t have to do anything except collect what we see and spiritually pass it on to her, commending everything to her care.
And then let go.
So she can do her work.
You’ve done your part.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/paurian/3552530403/”>paurian</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>