The Salvation Army has been with me all my life—known as an organization that saves lives by serving people who need help in getting the very basic necessities of life. I am dazzled by its sustaining power, its ability to gather the funds necessary to perform its services– and the nobility of its cause. While it is evangelically Christian in its inspiration and its culture, its services are delivered to all people in need. It is at once particular and universal. Indeed, we as individuals and as people connected to our respective institutions are at the same time individual and universal.
Tonight’s award, given to a saintly and at the same time, consummately human woman, our dear friend Sister Adrian Barrett, a Catholic nun, and tonight’s keynote address, given by my husband and me, both of the Jewish faith, suggest that the Salvation Army does not limit itself in its clientele—or in the company it keeps. We are, in one way, if not in another, on the same page: partners in our commitment to leave the world a little bit better than it was before we got here. Our respective jobs are works in progress. We continue with vigor and conviction, always aware not only of the difference we make, but of the difference we don’t make—the needs that we cannot meet– the enormity of the problems in this world–of hunger and poverty, mental and physical illnesses, lives without hope, even in our great nation—arguably the richest and most democratic in the world.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered in the Scranton Times Tribune that Sr. Adrian is receiving “The Others” award. That information gave me a whole new burst of enthusiasm about the Salvation Army—and its mission of service to others; more than that—as seeing others and ourselves as interdependent; strengthening the culture of interdependence has been a campaign of mine in recent years. Others, especially those less fortunate, must be seen as part of our landscape—part of our moral responsibility—part of the human race—the race we all belong to—our brothers and sisters who need us. And yes, we need them too. For if they are in dire straits, it is our duty to help them to lift themselves out of misery—not just for them—the others—but for us, for our own good and the good of our society. Bear in mind, humbly, that we are all others to someone. That is made patently clear in this much more interconnected world of the 21st century—we see it in acts of terror against us as “the other.” But we can also take the new interconnectedness as an opportunity for greater understanding and empathy of those of different cultures.
Notwithstanding our proud status as a democratic nation, we are not the nation we aspire to be at a time when the gap between haves and have nots continues to widen. “The others” have the same right as we to live the good life. We are all interdependent.
I propose a toast to our beloved friend, Sister Adrian, who is surely the sister of all “the others” of this world, and to the Salvation Army, for presenting its coveted Others award to her. Let us vow that we will continue to be partners in our commitment to work on behalf of people in need, whoever and wherever they are, and most of all, to be partners in our humility– in recognizing our limitations, as we know that there is so much more that needs to be done.