Dealing with what we don’t want to see

How do we deal with what we do not want to see?

Garfield is one of those comic strips that sometimes evokes more than a polite smile.

In the first panel of one such strip, Garfield is sitting at the table with a feast in front of him: Turkey, dressing, biscuits, vegetables, pies and more. He is obviously enjoying it. In the corner of that panel is the subtle image of Odie the dog outside the window.

The second panel is a closer view of Odie; he’s covered with snow and has empty water and food dishes.

What will Garfield do? Will he open the window and hand food to Odie? Will he invite Odie in to share the feast? How will Garfield handle his abundance alongside Odie’s scarcity?

In the third panel Garfield shuts the drapes and says, “That’s better.”

How do we deal with what we do not want to see?

I thought about that Garfield strip – one that I have in a large, disorderly folder of comic strips and poems and other things labeled “This Will Preach” – the other day when I came across Langston Hughes’ gripping poem, “God to Hungry Child”:

Hungry child,
I didn’t make this world for you.
You didn’t buy any stock in my railroad.
You didn’t invest in my corporation.
Where are your shares of Standard Oil?
I made the world for the rich
And the will-be-rich
And the have-always-been-rich.
Not for you,
Hungry child.

That poem took my breath. If it does not cause you to think or feel something, you might want to check for metabolism.

The powerful dissonance of attributing those words to God is exactly the point.

We could end hunger. Since we have not, are the hungry to conclude that God somehow wants it this way? Why else would decision makers fail to end the scandal of hunger?

How do we deal with what we don’t want to see?

One way we could deal with what we don’t want to see is to close our drapes, our minds, our checkbooks. We could reveal our inner Garfields and pretend like what we don’t want to see doesn’t exist. (News flash: It still does.)

Another option is to blame the things we want to avoid on something outside of our control. God, perhaps. Hughes is not doing this but is pointing to the absurdity of doing so.

Or we could go all anti-Garfield. Rather than close off or close out what we don’t want to see, we could intentionally and courageously open ourselves to it.

Open our hearts to feel the plight of others. Open our minds to consider creative solutions. Open our mouths to engage in authentic discussions. Open our hands to work alongside others. Open our checkbooks to support those who are creatively working alongside others.

How do you deal with what you don’t want to see?

Nathan Day Wilson is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Follow him on Twitter: @nathandaywilson

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