Our first reading today shares a remarkable portrait of the early Christian community.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind. (Acts 4: 32)
It’s a beautiful goal for what we aspire to be and create, as we try to make manifest the Kingdom of God on earth. Because all of us need a place and a community where our stories are safe. Where people know who we are and treat that knowledge with respect and love.
Last year I spent two months in Cambodia, near Siem Reap, teaching English is schools and providing opportunities and education to students from low-income families. To be honest, most of the kids came from dirt-poor families. But I was astounded by their sense of community and care for each other.
One day I was in Som’s class. Teacher Som had previously been a student at this school, and was selected for a scholarship, and is now a teacher there. She is a great teacher: Competent, confident, kind, and caring. You can see the kids love her. And she loves them.
The target language for this week’s lessons was clothing: shorts, cardigan, shirt, belt, hat, all that sort of stuff.
Each day would start with the students writing up the words they had learned the previous days. Som would say one of the target words, and all the kids would put up their hand, and shout, me, me, with the hope they would be selected to write on the whiteboard one of the words.
As Teacher Som chose the various students, needless to say, all the easy words went quickly. Belt and Hat were the first to go. Finally, there was one word left, Cardigan. This particular girl put up her hand with great gusto; she shouted me, me, , and was chosen. But it soon became clear she had no idea how to spell cardigan. So she stared blankly at the whiteboard marker pen, and not knowing what to write.
But what she didn’t know, she knew her classmates would help her. She was not alone. C, C, C, then A, A, A, the kids would shout, and letter by letter, she put Cardigan together.
What she could do on her own, she knew that the community would support her. She trusted in the goodness of her community. They were truly all on one mind and one heart.
All of us need a place and a community where our stories are safe. Where people know who we are and treat that knowledge with respect and love.
Peter Gardiner is a Passionist Priest in Sydney. He is primarily involved in outreach ministries.