Others, Like Us

With the vaccinations moving forward (based on area), and barring any surprises (something that has become standard for the last year or so–our streak is bound to change at some point), it appears that we are moving slowly towards a return to something like normal. We are beginning to interact with others a little more, attend church a little more, and have face-to-face conversations that don’t require a microphone and camera.

Unfortunately, tumultuous events have encouraged and caused us to be much more divided (are we also divisive?) than we were a year ago. Perhaps it is simply the fact that we haven’t spoken much face to face with each other. I’m hoping that as we move to more in-person sociality, we can move back towards civility and respect a little bit. A couple cautionary tales (from two classic movies, of course) come to mind.

Duck Soup

This Marx Brothers classic has Groucho playing Mr. Firefly, the leader of a country he has brought to the brink of war. He is persuaded to meet with the ambassador as a last-ditch effort at peace:

“I’d be only too happy to meet Ambassador Trentino, and offer him on behalf of my country the right hand of good fellowship. And I feel sure he will accept this gesture in the spirit in which it is offered.

“But suppose he doesn’t? A fine thing that’ll be. I hold out my hand and he refuses to accept it. That’ll add a lot to my prestige, won’t it? Me, the head of a country, snubbed by a foreign ambassador. Who does he think he is, that he can come here, and make a sap out of me in front of all my people?

“Think of it – I hold out my hand and that hyena refuses to accept it. Why, the cheap four flushing swine, he’ll never get away with it I tell you, he’ll never get away with it!”

(Ambassador Trentino enters. Mr. Firefly slaps him)

To be fair, in Duck Soup I think Mr. Firefly actually wants war and is just posturing (It’s been long enough since I’ve watched it through I don’t quite remember). However, here we have someone who has an opportunity to bring peace, but he doesn’t let go of the idea that the ambassador is simply a bad actor, and imagines four times in as many seconds not only a negative outcome, but the worst possible outcome. In doing so, he convinces himself that the supposed opportunity is a fraud and changes his own actions, slapping the ambassador instead of reaching out the hand of fellowship.

Meet the Robinsons

If you haven’t seen this, you need to. It is a tremendous tale of overcoming difficult circumstances, and the doubts and fears that can plague you in doing so. At one point we see a flashback of the villain’s childhood as he is telling his backstory:

Student 1: Hey, what’s up? Cool binder!
Student 2: Hey, want to come over to my house today?
Villain: They all hated me…

It’s a funny scene, but in a rather sad way. The villain, having spent most of his life in isolation, has convinced himself that everyone in the world was against him; although the more accurate depiction shows that to be completely false (Interestingly, one of the focuses of the movie is an invention called the “Memory Scanner”). Others were actually very kind and attempted to reach out to him; but, absorbed in his own misfortunes, he not only did not notice, he attributed malice towards those whose actual actions were precisely the opposite.

Make Room for Others

I have found myself at times falling victim to the same traps illustrated in those movie quotes. So sure of others harmful intent that I can not even hear what they have to say. So sure of a negative outcome that my own actions make that outcome more likely.

I took great comfort from hearing from our prophets and apostles in our recent General Conference. One talk I’d like to mention is Elder’s Gong’s excellent talk “Room in the Inn“. He discusses the parable of the Good Samaritan, and compares the inn where the victim was taken to the Church, a place where we can find healing and grace.

My plea is that as we are seeking our own healing, we can make a little extra room for others who, like us, are in need of their own healing.
Others who, like us, may be judging others a little unfairly.
Others who, like us, may be harboring some resentment or frustration.
Others who, like us, may struggle to reconnect.
Others who, like us, may be unaware of their own inadequacies.
Others who, like us, are hoping to find friendship and compassion in others.

In the nativity, Jesus ends up being born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. I hope that as we begin to return back to meeting and greeting and socializing with others that we can find a way to make room for others in our own homes and hearts. I hope that others will make room in their inns for me and that I can make room for them.