God brings his image to perfection in us slowly, offering a thousand small ways to follow Christ in solidarity with our neighbors. Let us, then, give our all to human hearts to God and to one another” (Sister Dominic Mary Heath in Solidarity Means Giving Yourself in Plough Quarterly, 2020).
Some of you may remember a post I wrote about solidarity which, according to Pope John Paul II, is a commitment to an objective standard called the common good, which means the greatest good for society as a whole. Solidarity is the sum total of social conditions allowing all people to reach fulfillment: the good of all and of each.
I then told the story of my difficulties with the woman in the apartment above mine who seems to understand “the good of each” (meaning herself), but couldn’t care less about the “good of all (meaning, me, too). I have issues about her constantly barking dogs whose recreation area and bathroom is the deck above my patio. In addition, I have a strong objection to her dumping gallons of water over her railing on to my patio.
I didn’t like the anger she stirred up in me nor the behavior that resulted. I was hoping to find “solidarity.” I decided that I needed to have a conversation with her. This was definitely something I was NOT looking forward to. I went to see the manager of the apartment complex, (who is a good friend) about my problems and my concerns about how badly I was thinking and behaving. I asked for her name so the next time I heard her on her deck, I could call up her. She gave me the name, but warned me not to talk to her. She said, ”She is a very angry lady. Everything is always about her. She comes into my office every week and unloads on me. Just let me handle her.”
Well, that was a relief! I had prayed about this and became willing to speak to her but now I didn’t have to. Maybe this was solidarity at work for “the good of all and of each.”
A few days later I heard a loud thud outside my front door. I couldn’t tell where or what it was and I was reading a good book, so I ignored it. Soon I heard a knock on the door. My next-door neighbor beckoned me outside and pointed to the edge of my patio. A huge rectangular planter built to fit over a railing had dropped from my upstairs neighbor’s deck to the ground. It landed right on top of my favorite (and most expensive) plant growing in a planter which is now no longer useful. I lost it! – my temper and the plant. My neighbor wanted to take a picture of the destruction and show it to the manager. I said, “No, I don’t want to start something else. Let’s just see if we can salvage my plant.” We picked up the beautiful black dirt off the ground and pushed it together with the various chunks of the plant. I watered it and we found a place to put it on the patio.
The upstairs tenant came out to her deck few hours later in the rain and started to re-arrange her deck to, I assumed to create a better spot for her fallen planter. I thought about all the plants she had lost and the work she has to do to repair the damage. I was feeling sad about my poor mutilated plant; she must be feeling a lot worsen about all of hers. I checked an hour later and the planter was gone. Only a small, damaged tomato remained.
I sat for a while and thought over my reactions to this event. First anger over this new loss. Then the decision not go to the manager with the story. Then my compassion for her loss. Then astonishment that I had gone from anger to compassion in less than two hours and had longed for the good of all and each. Maybe I am closer to solidarity than I thought.
I didn’t have long to wait about that “maybe.” The next night the woman upstairs poured gallons of water over her railing and drowned my patio and some plants. I went out calmly and called her by name. “Why are you dumping water all over my patio again?” She yelled something I couldn’t understand. I went back in the house. I’m pretty sure that my goal of solidarity fueled by compassion will continued to be tested until it becomes my go-to response.