Do unto others


A few months ago, I was offered my dream job: working to help end human trafficking by utilizing my skills as a writer, builder of Web “platforms” and social networker. This was after a long stint of being a comments moderator for a large news site, where my job entailed making sure everyone played nice in the sandbox. I’m here to tell you that they didn’t. I toiled from home for a pittance, clicking “publish” or “delete” on repulsive comments about the first family, marriage equality and—yes—remarks from atheists ridiculing anyone who prescribed to any spiritual or religious path as mentally incompetent at best, and a scourge on humanity and child abusers at worst.

I tried hard to be fair. As an out “nontheist” (neither “atheist” nor “agnostic” seemed to fit; one seemed too aggressive and certain, and the other seemed too namby-pamby), I simply didn't believe in a personification of a godhead any more than I believed in Santa Claus, Zeus or that the moon is made of green cheese. But my work goal was always to add to civil discourse and disallow abuse or generalizations from either side.

And then: this new job. The pleasure I took in working for a truly righteous cause kept me up many late nights. It was the hardest and happiest I'd ever worked. I spoke about it excitedly to the kindhearted Christian friends I knew. I felt a connection building between us.

And then?

That job defrauded me. Right after Thanksgiving, they left my family high and dry, unpaid for my month of hard work. We were left without my crucial half of our meager income, and to add to the pathetic Charlie Bucket quality, my 7-year-old son has a bone disorder that requires surgery in this month.

I cried bitter, angry tears of the betrayed. Then, I awakened one day, and I felt a little better. And then, a little better again. What I was realizing was that I liked to be of service. I took that gratification I'd gained from that job and translated it into my overriding, passionate love for humanity and desire to serve the downtrodden, or the simply struggling and overburdened.

And I started close to home.

I'm still learning how to best identify how to be of service to my community. Right now, it feels intimate and effective to be a good friend to those whose needs I've overlooked. And it's been my Christian friends who've been among the most pragmatically supportive, though wagons have circled us from all sides. I started raking people's lawns—I fear sometimes against their will—hauling ass when I'd see them come home. But I'm learning to better recognize true needs and how I address those directly. Every day I try to earn my keep: whether it's steam cleaning a harried mom's carpet whose dog had a diarrhea attack, or folding an Everest of laundry with an overwhelmed neighbor.

I have wonderfully charitable, giving friends in my community of nonbelievers. But I will say this: I've grown much closer to the Christians I used to keep at arms-length. They don't proselytize or invite me to church. Nor do I challenge them on their faith or their path. The ones I know are Christlike. Feet-washers. “Come as you are” types. Not Bible-thumping bigots.

And now, I know to hold a space. We're not so far apart, after all.