Last week, in the space of about 24 hours, I heard three different descriptions of compassion in Toledo.
The first was a lecture by the Rev. Jim Bacik at Lourdes University. Lourdes has been giving this prophetic and beloved Toledoan a podium. Father Bacik spoke, this day, on the theologian Karen Armstrong.
One of the forms of compassion Ms. Armstrong urges on her readers is hospitality, epitomized by the late Dorothy Day. She walked the walk — and I love her for that — living with the bums and drunks and addicts she gave shelter, as “one of.” Not servicing or saving, but suffering with.
She epitomized the Christianity of St. Francis and Pope Francis: Preach the gospel with deeds and demeanor. Words and concepts should be secondary. More soup kitchens, less dogma. Be charity; don’t talk it.
Father Bacik noted that Ms. Armstrong also describes another kind of compassion — compassion for one’s self. Father Bacik explained that what she really means is really giving one’s self a chance to succeed.
Since part of our concern is how to make Toledo a compassionate city, it occurred to me that we need not just compassion for the poor, particularly children and young people who are poor, for it is terrible to rob the young of hope, but compassion for the city itself. Toledo has to cut Toledo a break.
It seems to me that this is starting to happen. The great insecurity that has for so long been a part of Toledo’s self-identity is giving way to a new (youth inspired) attitude: “You will do better in Toledo.”
A few hours after hearing this talk at Lourdes, I met some folks active in Point Place. They wanted me to know how much is going on there — new businesses, revived interest in boating, clean up and investments in their docks and parks.
They don’t understand why Toledo, sitting on the largest body of fresh water in the world, and at the junction of I-80 and I-75, crossroads of the nation, isn’t doing better than Seattle. They think the city should do more for Point Place and more to promote the city. But, meanwhile, they are doing it themselves, awaiting the discovery of what they know is special, and building on that special community and its assets. They are giving themselves a chance to succeed.
An hour later, I was standing in a crowd of citizens downtown listening to the bell toll three times for firefighters who died in the line of duty in this city — most recently, Jamie Dickman and Stephen Machcinski on Jan. 26. It was the annual June 10 commemoration of the fallen. Firefighters live service and compassion. And, somehow, the few musical notes of Taps speak more eloquently of their lives than 100,000 words.
Mayor D. Michael Collins spoke. He said that at times, after those two men died, he felt hopeless and lost. He said the only thing that brings back hope is fraternity, charity, and hospitality. He avoided that big word: compassion. He used an even bigger and more problematic one: love.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.
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