Three-letter acronyms. DIY. ATM. BBC. FYI. CYA. And, of course, LOL. I used to work as a technical writer for a financial services company, and one of my colleagues was the organization’s librarian—she had a list of over 300 three-letter acronyms specific to that company. But I have a new three-letter acronym I’d like to suggest that we Left Handers adopt: SRE. Never heard of that one? It comes from a quote from Howard Thurman, pastor, civil rights activist, and influence on Dr. Martin Luther King. In his comments on race and social relations, Thurman wrote:
…if Christians practice [fellowship] among Christians, this would be one limited step in the direction of a new order among [human beings]. Think of what this would mean. Wherever one Christian met or dealt with another Christian, there would be a socially redemptive encounter. They would be like the Gulf Stream or the Japanese Current tempering and softening the climate in all directions. Indeed, the Christian would be a leaven at all levels of the community and in public and private living. Of course, such a situation may lend itself to all kinds of exploitation and betrayals—but the Christian would be one of the bulwarks of integrity in human relations in an immoral society.
There it is. “Socially redemptive encounter.” SRE. When I read this phrase, I was struck by the power of those three words to reframe my approach to everyday encounters, not only my interactions with other Christians, but with everyone I encounter. “Socially…”In the midst of a social atmosphere that’s described as “chaotic,” “polarized,” and “toxic,” it’s difficult to remember the power of everyday acts of kindness, but the ripple effects of these acts are real. Consider a place you know that has a distinct cultural atmosphere—what created that culture? Often, it’s the mutually reinforcing power of individual acts that give that community it’s unique identity. In the short time that LHC has existed, we’ve already created a social atmosphere that’s quite different from some other faith communities because of the kindness that wafts in the air like the aroma of really good coffee as people serve, encourage, and share with each other. “Redemptive…”I love this word. It acknowledges conditions where something’s amiss, damaged, or out of place while simultaneously offering the hope of restoration and healing. Again, a pretty good description of Left Hand.“Encounter…”Martin Buber, Jewish theologian, wrote that “in every You [human being] we address the eternal You [God].” An encounter is being fully present to the people right in front of us. For me, LHC has challenged me to work harder at being careful, attentive, and grateful when I look into the face of another human being, remembering their sacredness. So…let’s continue to build an SRE-rich community, but let’s also take this thing to the streets. When I see you at LHC next Saturday, let me know: had any SREs this week?
Howard Thurman, The Luminous Darkness: A Personal Interpretation of the Anatomy of Segregation and the Ground of Hope (Friends United Press: 1989, ©1965), 94, 105. [qtd in Richard Rohr’s daily blog, July 26, 2019]
Buber, Martin. I and Thou.New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.