Today's meditation discusses the "dignity of the human decision to live under the rule of law. That some choose not to do so does not injure this dignity." How we respond to those who choose not to do so shows some measure of who we are.
Long ago when I was working as a juvenile court mediator, through a program called Mediation and Restitution Services (MARS), I got to watch the process of mediation - with restitution - make real differences in the lives and thought processes of the children and teens we worked with. So often, someone who commits a crime doesn't think far enough ahead or empathize enough with the victim to realize that their actions have consequences they might not know about. One teen lived next door to a relatively elderly gentleman, who had a moped in his back yard. The teen never saw it move, and it was driving him crazy that something that could be so much fun was just sitting there. So, one day he went for a joyride. It crashed (fortunately he was not hurt, but the moped was), and he came to meet with me and the older neighbor. The interesting thing about these mediations is that the parents must attend, but aren't allowed to say anything. This is all on the kid, and the choices that they've made to get here. I asked him why he'd taken the moped, and he explained. He apologized to his neighbor. I then asked the neighbor if he ever used his moped. It turns out he did - once a week when his neighbors were in church, he would ride the moped to the cemetery and spend time with his wife. This opened quite a few people's eyes - the parents learned they had a widower for a neighbor, who was a rather lonely man; the teen learned how much of an impact his actions would have on a man he really knew nothing about. The man was prepared to accept the apology, but was unwilling to take money from the parents of the teen. The teen was too young to get a job. So here's where the mediation came in - the teen needed to be able to make restitution for the damage he'd caused to the moped, and was quite capable of doing chores. The neighbor was getting on in years, and could use some help with yard work and someone to learn and assist with wood crafting and the tools he used. So, twice a week after school, and one weekend day, the teen spent in the company of his neighbor, at a set "hourly" rate until he'd paid off the repairs. When I checked on the family of the teen a few months later, I learned that they had begun having their neighbor over for dinners or cookouts, and that their son was thriving under the extra attention he received, not to mention the new skills he was learning.
Through that process, we gained another person who would, in the future, choose to live under the rule of law, and understanding that the laws were created for our own benefit. Christ's message in Matthew 17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." reminds us also of His message in Matthew 22:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Something Fun for Advent
Get dressed in your most fun (but okay to get dirty in) Christmas outfit (Santa hat included), take trash bags and make it a contest of who can get the most trash picked up in a 30 minute period in your neighborhood. Invite your friends and make it a whole community, spontaneous effort.
Then later on in the evening, take a stroll or a drive and look at the Christmas lights. Talk about the one light God sent to guide the wise men to where the baby Jesus would be born.