By Rajmund Dabrowski — Go figure out what this Scripture means: “I’m after mercy, not religion.” —Matthew 9:13
Let me take you on an experience I had in 1982. Walking back to my editorial office after lunch, my assistant said, “Brother Rajmund, you will have a visitor in a few minutes. He is a well-known journalist and I recognize his name.” She didn’t tell me the name.
Who was it, I wondered? In those days we had no iPhones and appointments were a luck of the lottery. But, sure enough, a few minutes later, he walked into my office and I recognized him from meetings at a journalist association group as both of us were members. He was a known commentator on science and society. And he was blacklisted by the state as a dissident who publicly opposed martial law.
He shared his difficult situation of being unable to be employed. A baby had arrived a few months previous to this and he had no money for milk to feed him, he explained. “As I was walking on the other side of the street,” he explained, “I looked over and saw the name of your publishing house and it hit me: That’s a religious publisher. Perhaps they can publish something I can write for them. Signs of the Times is less scrutinized by the state than the main media is. Can you help me?” he asked.
We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him to come back the next day.
It was a test of my convictions and what I had been taught since I was a small boy at home. Until then, most of our authors were either members of the church or known Christian writers.
Memory takes me to my pre-teen years and to a Bible text which was often referred to and commented on at our dining table. It was a statement made by Apostle James that “pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles” (James 1:27).
I could not understand, at that time, why Christians should single out people to be worried about. I didn’t know any orphans, and my grandma tried to explain what a widow is. “I am a widow,” she said. She explained what widow’s trouble might mean, and that an orphan could be in trouble if left alone.
In our household, we were frequently reminded that being a Christian means looking after those who need help.
“You should be known for who you are rather than what you have,” my mother often said. “We may not have a lot, but we have enough to share with others.”
I also learned what her passion was. My mother was a social activist. She was a coordinator of social action at her dental co-op, helping those struggling with their livelihood. “I know what poverty is,” she explained. To me, being a Christian means to stand for the poor and walk through the experience of someone else.” She shared her recollections from WWII, speaking about a need to stand against any kind of injustice. I learned that my generosity returns unbeknownst to me.
Another lesson I learned about was my mother’s engagement with many more people than our own church family. There was the obvious need to serve others and the recognition that every human being is a child of God.
The next day, I was ready to ask the commentator to write on a topic which would fit the profile of the magazine, and we even prepared a pre-payment for the material. For me, the message was always more important than the name of the author.
These days, I am reminded of that story whenever I hear or share a blessing repeated weekly in my church: May Jesus bless you with compassion and care for all people. May Jesus bless you with courage, that you will dare to be who you are. May Jesus bless you with openness, understanding and respect.
Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]