Each holding a bunch of red heart shaped balloons Christian Hunt and Alex Randall are walking the streets trying to convince people to join their campaign Cheatneutral.com.
The basic idea is about offsetting infidelity and is described on their website as follows: “When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.” In other words you can either join as a project to get funding for being faithful or you can pay Cheatneutral.com to cheat on your partner and then Cheatneutral.com will pay someone else to be faithful for you. In this way the total level of broken hearts in the world doesn’t go up.
The whole idea is thoroughly bizarre and – although real is still a joke, a joke which highlights the fact that Carbon Offsetting is also a joke. It is not difficult to make the connection and see the same absurdity in paying for the right to carry on emitting carbon.
It took me a little longer however to come to think of something we do which might be called offsetting indifference. We send money to charities so that they can care for destitute people for us. Convenient, isn’t it? I don’t think it is bad, but I do think there is something better. Jesus said “You will always have the poor among you…” (John 12:8) but they are not among us. This is not God’s plan for a civil society. “There is no Holiness but social holiness” (John Wesley). They are dissociated from us both physically and mentally. To “buy away” the responsibility of loving my brothers and sisters is to make myself a disservice. I think that by letting the stories of their lives touch me a change in my heart can occur; which I desire.
Huddled up in my bed in the upstairs room of the Catholic Worker Farm house pondering about life I can hear St Teresa of Avila’s words echoing in my head “…to ascend to the mansion of your heart’s desire it is not so important to think a lot, as to love a lot.”
Sometimes going downstairs to see if any of our guests needs me requires a little bit of self sacrifice. However I have so far never regretted it when I’ve chosen to try to love instead of think. And I wonder if I, after all, may need them more than they need me. Tired of my own thoughts, I want to learn to love more. I don’t always find it easy, but as I am writing this I realise I cannot think of any better place to be in order to learn to love and strive to conform my will to the will of God.
Talking to one of our guests about her life all my problems and worries seem so silly and insignificant. When I share this with her I expect a response like “One should not compare like that, your problems may be important for you“, but instead she brutally tells me “No, you have no problems”. Sometimes understanding and compassion is not what I need to get a better understanding and to feel compassion.
I have always been taught that love is not a feeling, but when Jesus cured the man with leprosy (Mk. 1:41) he was “moved with compassion”, some texts say “moved with anger”. Curing the man was not something he did with indifference only because he knew it was right. In my experience, when I feel the love for another person swirling around in my body, it certainly helps me to see more clearly, to be more honest and to reach further. But lack of that feeling is no excuse for not acting in a loving way.
This community provides many opportunities of reflecting upon my own intentions. Sometimes I doubt whether I want to live with “the poor” because I love them or because I believe it is the right thing to do. But no matter what the answer is I guess I should continue for I don’t doubt that God loves them immensely more than I do and he would never even consider paying someone else to do it for him.