WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

With Whom Do You Believe Your Lot Is Cast?

By Maureen Killoran

With whom do you believe your lot is cast?
From where does your strength come?
—Adrienne Rich

A row of checkout lanes at a grocery store, with -- in the foreground -- a blurry shopping cart moving by.

Ethical question (although this really happened): You are in a local grocery store. An elderly, poorly-dressed white lady is pushing a cart, moving with obvious difficulty as she adds to her hoard first one item and then another. She finishes, then proceeds slowly – not to the checkout, but to the exit, where two security guards are chatting. The woman pauses, waits for perhaps 30 seconds under the guards’ noses. It is as though she is invisible to everyone but you, for no one even blinks as she moves through the door, pushing the cart and its stash of unpaid-for goods to her waiting car.

What would you do?

How would you balance respect for the elderly (Honor thy father and mother) with the issue of theft (Thou shalt not steal)?

How about individual need versus corporate greed?

What about assigned responsibility (the security guards) versus your own “right to privacy” (mind your own business)?

What about your potential embarrassment (what if she's the manager’s doddery aunt and they reclaim the goods each night?) or her potential shame (an “old lady” hauled off to jail)?

On the other hand, are some people more equal than others? What would you have done if
the thief had been a body-pierced teen? A person of color? A white man in dirty overalls?

What would you do? What would you not do? And what difference does it make?

God of hope and challenge, help me sort through the complexities of our days.
I long to live on the side of love. Help me not to turn away.

About the Author

Maureen Killoran

Born in Canada, Rev. Maureen Killoran has, over the past 30 years, served UU congregations in Ohio, British Columbia, Oregon, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland, Texas, and Florida.


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