The payback for us, if we “love one another” … is surely the improvement of life for all
[from newsletter May, 2021: Cadence Financial Group, Vancouver, Canada] In 1856, [African American] Granville T. Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio [US]. Armed with a 4th grade education, he went on to invent dozens of patents such as the multiplex telegraph, which dramatically increased train travel safety by allowing trains to signal their location to stations and other trains. The excerpt below is from “Granville Woods, the black Thomas Edison, was noted inventor and held many patents” in the North Kentucky Tribune:
In 1888 Granville Woods, a highly respected Black inventor, was “unmercifully beaten” by Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) employees. Woods had purchased a first-class ticket on the L&N from Cincinnati to Nashville, and during the first leg of that journey to Louisville, sat in relative comfort in first class. Upon arriving in Louisville, however, a new crew “objected to a colored man riding through the ‘Dark and Bloody Ground’ [the South] in first-class style, and attempted to eject him from the car.” When Woods resisted, the crew beat him (“A Colored Man’s Rights,” Cincinnati Post, June 25, 1888, p. 4).
Of all the possible ironies in history, this incident should be recorded in the history books. After all, it was Granville Woods’ many inventions that literally made American railroads safe, fast, and efficient. One of his principal patents, in fact, enabled instantaneous telegraphic communication between the conductors of moving trains and station masters. Thanks to Woods, at any time railroads could keep track of where their trains were, thereby preventing unnecessary collisions. https://www.nkytribune.com/2021/02/our-rich-history-granville-woods-the-black-thomas-edison-was-noted-inventor-and-held-many-patents/ I wonder the word “unnecessary” before collisions? Are there necessary collisions?
I share this story for two reasons:
1) it reminds us of the worldwide headlines of racial issues that have confronted and challenged us in the last few years;
2) it reminds me of the life of Jesus Christ: who came and did good things but was ultimately abused and killed.
The readings this week begin with the “amazement” experienced by the early Christians that non-Jewish people are also welcomed by God. Racism is as much a religious issue as it is a social issue.
So, how do we overcome racism and religious bigotry? The Gospel gives the necessary instructions: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.”
Now, what’s in it for us? Well, unlike Jesus Christ, when we die we don’t usually return to this world. The opening story reminds us of the potential and importance of every person.
What would have happened if Granville T. Woods had not invented the train safety devices? How many people would have died in train crashes? And each of those people,
who might have died: what inventions and contributions to society would we have lost? Not to mention, how many of us may not even have been born!
The payback to us, if we “love one another”, is surely the improvement of life for all. St Peter declared in the First Reading that: “God has no favourites.” We are all different and each person brings their own unique contribution to society, community and family life.
In that way, we can understand what Jesus means when he says: “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”
Although it is foolish and dangerous to presume to know what God thinks, I suggest that the “joy of God” is, surely, when you, me and the dog next door are all happy, fulfilled and empowering others.
It reminds me of the man who won the best “grain” prize at the annual show day for several years in a row: when asked how he did it, he said he sells his best seed grain to all his neighbours. The interviewer was shocked, “but aren’t you afraid they will win the prize?” He said, “No! When I sell them my best seed, I know that what nature blows onto my property, from their properties, will be the best; not poor quality pollen that will reduce my crop quality.”
Do we want to live a happy, fulfilled life? Try empowering others, as God did through the Apostles, and still wants to, through each one of us: but only if we choose to cooperate.
Here in Kenya, though most of the population is black, “racism” occurs through tribalism; where some people look down upon various tribal groups, which can deny them education, career, and other opportunities. What about in local communities: are we ecumenical (welcoming) or discriminating against (avoiding) people of other religions?
I pray this week, that each of us might research the groups of people we dislike or are afraid of, so that we might discover what they have contributed to our society. Knowledge is not just power, it allows us to appreciate people, which promotes peace in our communities.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI