Monday, March 18th
Legitimate: to make (someone or something) legitimate: 1. to give legal status to; 2. to show or affirm to be justified; 3. to lend authority or respectability to.
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
I was driving home from a conference last week when I stopped to buy gas and a few snacks. As I waited in line, the gentleman ahead of me struggled to understand the cashier. He obviously could not understand English very well. I knew he only needed her to repeat her words slowly, perhaps showing him what she meant. Instead she raised her voice, as if yelling would make a difference. Then she quickly became openly hostile to the poor man, her anger and frustration raging upon him as he stood there quietly.
I did not speak. Perhaps I was shocked, or afraid, or simply dumbfounded, but I did not speak. How I wish I would have asked the cashier why she was being so mean. I wish I would have set my trail mix down and left the place. I wish I would have stayed outside to tell the man how sorry I was. Instead, I quietly paid for my things and drove away.
I have regretted this ever since…
Especially when I arrived home and read the news about the 49 Muslims who are now dead because someone else was raging. If I remain silent, I am part of the problem. If I do not speak up for the oppressed, I am part of the problem. If I don’t speak against every act of meanness, arrogance, hostility and prejudice, I am silently condoning them. May I never, never, never remain silent in the face of hatred again.
In these times, we are desperately needed to legitimate our immigrants, refugees, and all others who are treated this way. From the above definitions, my work to legitimate this man would have been to “lend him the respectability” he deserved. My unearned respectability and authority to lend comes only from looking like the cashier and speaking the same language! I may have been able to help her see she was out of line. I could also have made her more upset, but at least the gentleman would not have felt so alone.
We are called to speak out for those who cannot speak. I think of our dear Jesus, who mostly remained silent before his tormentors. Did he wonder why no one had the love and courage to defend him, to speak against these atrocities? When we speak up for the oppressed, we are speaking for him, too. I am so sorry, Jesus.
Open my mouth, move my conscience, give me the courage, God, when this happens again. For sadly, I know it will.
All definitions are excerpted from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
Photo credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash