There is a story in the Bible about when Jesus went to Matthew's house for dinner. He sat with tax collectors and prostitutes and "disreputable sinners" as the good book calls them. These were people for whom the physicalities of this world were more important to them than anything else and would do anything from theft to murder to achieve their goals. Here He sat with them, dining with them, enjoying their company, entertaining them with stories and wisdom, listening to their music, etc.
Of course, the pious ones, the pharisees, asked of His disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with such scum?" He overheard this and responded, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do." Then He added, "Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture: 'I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.' For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."
People need love and understanding. Someone who will look into their eyes and be with them in their time of need and offer truth beyond that which can be learned from the physical world. It's easy to learn how to make your way in this world physically. The harder part is knowing how to be at peace with yourself, knowing yourself through and through, and to be the manifestation of the very spark of love that created you in the first place.
For the first time in my life, I understand a scripture that made no sense to me before. My mother has been trying to get me to understand it for quite a while now and well, I think it's sinking in. It goes like this:
To me, this means that I can not cling to those that I care about so dearly including myself, my friends, my parents, etc. I can not take care of myself and be all that I can be if I am spending all of my resources, time and energy on them, to keep them "safe from harm." You can't put a boy in a bubble from birth or he will never develop immunities. You can not keep someone from working for a living or they will never learn to care for themselves upon your eventual death. You can't provide someone's needs for them or they will become lazy, fat and ungrateful during the lean times.
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."
This, in combination with the scripture Jesus challenged the pharisees with, is an interesting balance. Show mercy... not sacrifice. How do you know when you've gone too far? When things begin to feel wrong in your heart. When you realize that those you are providing for are not taking to heart what you are trying to teach them. If you can still see the drive and determination in them to be more than they are, your act of love is as good now as ever. For the best compliment to one's provisions is to show that you have learned, have taken to heart what they've said and done, and have incorporated their teachings within your own life. It starts with imitation... copying that which one sees and admires and does not yet fully understand. It finishes with personalization... making those beliefs and actions your own without the presence of the one(s) you imitate.
I also believe that these teachings go both ways. While one can learn the benefits of hard work and teach another the same, the other can learn the benefits of mercy, of sharing, giving and forgiving. Balancing these is a tricky task but it's sorta like riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget.
I have learned much from those I have been "bedfellows" with. There is not one person in my life that has not taught me something that has made me a better person. Either by them being a good example or a bad example, I have learned what type of person I want to be... for better or for worse (by the definitions of those who view my life), who I am is who I am and that is immutable.