In just two more days, a team from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada is arriving. They are part of a faith community called “The Commons“.
I am not sure what lead this community to call themselves The Commons, but the word common is one full of meaning, and meaning very relevant to the relationships Niños con Valor shares with our family both here in Bolivia and abroad.
On the one hand, commons can refer to that which is shared in common by all. Because of how our worldwide society is, this is necessarily limited to those things that are free: air, water and (decreasingly) land. We can also talk in this vein about expression, art and (ideally) rights. In faith communities, about love, grace and hope.
On the other hand, commons can speak of the ordinary. While this has been used to distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary, the common folk from the elite, from another perspective it is a word that levels. Putting this definition together with the former, when I hear of a group calling themselves “the commons” I think of a vision to live equally based on our shared ordinariness.
This is not a new concept. Arguably its best exposition was penned by one of the earliest followers of Christ, Paul of Tarsus, in his letter to the church in Philippi:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Now, whatever you believe, the point being illustrated here is clear and challenging: One who has every-thing, chooses to live a life of every-one. A decision of levelling, of living in relationship based on what is shared rather than what divides.
So, whatever does this have to do with NCV? We tend to observe above the surface. And above the surface, the children cared for by NCV bear the burden of traumatic history, live in a shared residential home, are dependent. The children in the communities with which we work are poor, lack opportunity, lack health care.
When we look at things above the surface, it can stir us towards charity. We are disturbed by the dissonance and find ways of reaching down to offer support. This leads to much needed financial support, prayers and campaigns to raise awareness. This is a good thing.
But what happens when we look at things at surface-level? Or further, if we engage at surface level?
Ironically, we are less disturbed. There is no abovebelow richpoor. Just the commons. Our kids are the same, we are the same. We can now identify, not with sympathy but with empathy, empathy given, empathy received. Life ceases to be give-take, and becomes shared. This is also a good thing.
It is foolishness to ignore the very real differences that separate one from another, and is equally foolish to ignore our similarities.
We are looking forward to sharing our lives and time with the team from Canada, and we are so grateful for the relationships we have with individuals, families, churches and other groups here in Bolivia and around the world.