On Friday, May 21, Sr. Adrian Barrett, a model of compassion and empathy, received the Others Award from the Salvation Army at its gala 125th anniversary celebration. I read of the award in a May 2 article in the Times-Tribune and was struck by its name and its origin. “Others” was the one-word Christmas message that the Salvation Army’s founder, William Booth, based in England, wired to Salvationists around the world in the Army’s early days. It was an economic measure as Booth’s lean budget did not permit a longer message—but “others” speaks volumes about the mission of the Army, of Sr. Adrian and even perhaps of all people of good will.
Good will, in the end, is about “others” –respecting their similarities and their differences and helping them when they’re in need. Too often we consider people who are other in economic, or ethnic or religious terms as unworthy of our respect.
But in fact we are all “other” to just about everyone else and its time that we stopped judging others by their “otherness.” I think it is not only unjust but unreal. From moral, religious and even pragmatic perspectives we need to be inclusive and respectful of difference in our 21st century world “without borders.” We have lessons to learn from environmentalists. They have proven to us that the physical world has an ecology—a relationship between organisms and their environment that recognizes that diversity is our reality. And so it is with the social/civic environment; it thrives on diversity. Americans should appreciate and rejoice in that as we are arguably the most diverse of societies—and that has been a major element in our unprecedented success as a nation. We humans have enormous capacity for collaboration and cooperation—and also, for bias and xenophobia.
The Salvation Army’s “Others Award” is a healthy reminder to all of us that we are all others, and that is the nature of the world.