Bishop Joseph N. Perry: Our Men Need Our Compassion

Certainly, one of the great American plays that runs periodically on the stages of our cities’ theatres is: A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry.

In the play, the Youngers, an African-American family living in a rundown apartment in Chicago in the late 1950s, inherit $10,000 from their late father’s life insurance policy.  Lena, the family matriarch, wants to use the money as a down-payment on a small house in the suburbs.  This in itself raises some eyebrows in that suburb, in pre-open housing America, and a spokesman is sent to visit the Youngers to help them change their mind.

Daughter Beneatha sees the money as a chance to realize her dream of going to medical school.  But son, Walter Lee, who works as a chauffeur for a rich white business man, harbors dreams of opening his own business. Walter, a proud young man who has experienced one disappointing setback after another in trying to make a life for himself, persuades his mother to let him use the money to open a liquor store with his buddy.  He promises that he can give back to the family all the blessings their hard lives had denied them.

Against her better judgment, the mother agrees.  But, sure enough, the son’s partner and buddy skips town with the money.  The distraught son can hardly bring himself to tell his mother and sister what has happened. Beneatha launches into an angry tirade against her brother.  At one pinot in her angry denunciation, her mother admonishes,

“Beneatha, I thought I taught you to love your brother.”
 “Love him!” Beneatha says contemptuously.  “There’s nothing left to love!”
 Her mother stops her.

“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothin.  Have you cried for that boy today?  I don’t mean for yourself and the family because we lost all that money. I mean for him: for what he’s been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most: when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learnin because that ain’t the time at all.  It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in himself ‘cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right.  Make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got where he is.”

Regardless of what evils and disappointments befall us, regardless of the messes we make of our lives and the lives of those we love, Lena Younger has it exactly right: There is always something left to love. And the worse things are, the more there is to love.  In Christ, God has assured us of his love, his acceptance, his understanding, his peace at all times – especially when times are the dreariest and the most hopeless God asks us who would be his holy people to be as ready as God is to lift up, to forgive, to support, to love every man.

+JNP 2013

 

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Author: Catholic Men Chicago Southland

Catholic Men Chicago Southland (CMCS) fosters Catholic Men in personal holiness to make Jesus Christ the center of our daily lives, and sponsor of the Bishop Perry Catholic Chicago Men's Forum. CMCS is Catholic Apostolate of Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry of Chicago. Executive Director, Frank J. Casella Vision: To Nurture Catholic Men's Spirituality in the Chicago Southland