More weekend news stories — these about people who move me by their compassion and courage:
1. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Drew Bartscher was recently standing outside a popular bar when he overheard a woman use an anti-gay slur to her boyfriend. Bartscher asked her to refrain from using such language. The next thing he knew, the woman's boyfriend had knocked him down.
As Bartscher says in the video clip at the head of the posting, his parents taught him values that compel him to stand up for people who are being abused. When he heard the anti-gay slurs, he thought about people he loves and the hurt that hateful words can cause them.
Bartscher is straight.
2. In Madison, Wisconsin, Brenda Konkel and Robert Bloch are facing fines for allowing homeless people to sleep on their front porch. Homelessness has increased in Madison 47% since 2010. Of those who are homeless in the city, there are 110 families with children. Konkel's response to the city's determination to fine her and her partner for sheltering the homeless:
These are human beings. If the city and the county aren’t doing this, why prevent us from doing it?
I have no idea whether Drew Bartscher, Brenda Konkel, or Robert Bloch have any religious affiliation at all. Those kinds of insider-outsider, tribal-boundary questions have long since ceased to interest me.
What does interest me as I read their stories is how these three people become for me, as I read these stories about their compassion and courage, part of the cloud of witnesses of which the book of Hebrews (12:1) speaks when it tells us that we're surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who inspire us to run with endurance the race set before us in our moral and spiritual lives.
In fact, truth be told, I find much more inspiration in these people's stories than I do in the stories told these days by many members of my own Catholic faith community. Especially when so many of those stories are stories of cruel exclusion of people from the community and its sacramental life because these human beings happen to have been made gay by God . . . .