What Today Brings
There is a video circulating of a young girl interrupting a service at the Vatican wherein she becomes the service. The child has a form of mental illness and wanders on the stage to jump around and pose. Nothing in her brain told her this was not socially appropriate. She was expressing herself the only way she knew how. The crowd gets amped over this unscripted disruption, perturbed about how it is affecting their intended prayer service, the guards approach the girl and the audience yells at her. “Leave her alone,” the Pope said. “God talks to kids. Leave her alone, leave her alone.” Thank God for this beautifully enlightened man, Pope Francis, who quiets the crowd using the display as a lesson in compassion, acceptance and understanding. “We’ve all seen today such a beautiful girl. She’s beautiful,” he told them. “I want to ask you something and I want you to answer from the bottom of your hearts. Have you prayed for her when you saw her? Have you prayed for the Lord to heal and protect her? Have you prayed for her parents and family? Whenever we see someone suffering, we should pray for them.” This happened in 2018 when a little boy with autism ran up on the stage to touch the guard with the funny costume: When the audience got angry, he quieted them again saying, “We must allow him to communicate with others and express himself.” The Pope proves he is not there to give speeches and be validated as Pope, King of Morality but to be a shining example of goodness. He proves he is there to teach a way of life based on compassion, as Jesus taught a life of compassion, as Buddha taught a life of compassion. Jesus said we are all God’s children; we are all to be loved and that he who is without sin should cast the first stone because we are all imperfect. I have a family member with autism and another with Alzheimer’s. I am continuously warmed by acts of kindness and dumbfounded by acts of dismissal and rejection. That is the interesting thing with both autism and Alzheimer’s; they challenge us to face communication that is not mutually satisfying. People often ask me if my aunt will recognize them. “No, she won’t,” is my answer. “But you will recognize her.” It is not about validating you and your experience with a woman you know and love or once loved. It is to validate her experience on earth, to make her feel warmth and sweetness from another living being. You may not come away from the encounter feeling personally “seen” or “validated,” but sometimes it’s not about you. There are times to be selfless. The same applies to someone who is autistic. You are not often going to go away from an encounter with an autistic person feeling validated and understood, but you will stretch your muscle of understanding, unconditional love and tolerance. We can all use as many lessons to that end as we can get. How can a group gathered at the Vatican, profess to be following Jesus’ lead while looking harshly on one of his most innocent and helpless, cast them away in the middle of a service on the very subject of kindness? In fact, they were just thinking about empathy, not experiencing the love in their hearts producing real compassion. In yogic meditation, we are told you can’t teach deep love untouched by prejudice and ulterior motives, you have to experience it. You can’t think love, you have to feel love. This is why we meditate, to focus on our breath and hearts, envisioning everyone surrounded by light. This immovable peace is different from the fleeting, romantic joy you feel when someone likes you and when they don’t, you lose that happiness. There is deeper bliss that is not the condition of something outside of you. Ironically, it is in feeling this love in our deepest personal core that we are able to connect to all things on earth and in the heavens. When you see someone with any condition that makes them not behave in a way we recognize as appropriate, do not judge and dismiss. Rather approach them with wonder and blessings, with warmth and compassion. Their full experience on this earth is every bit as valid and God-made as the Pope’s mighty presence on the pulpit. Jesus would certainly say so.